There was a moment while listening to Joey Hebdo’s latest record Stop Motion Times when the self-proclaimed “adventure folk” singer-songwriter’s message sonically encompassed my entire car while driving down the highway. Between the tracks “Floodline” and “Interstate,” the idea of escaping home yet eventually finding your way back via the road resonated as it does with most Midwesterns. Being a lifetime resident of the Buckeye state, I usually find myself daydreaming of a greater oasis for artists. My hawkeyes, much like a musician’s, are typically hovering over cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Chicago. This is a path that Columbus native Hebdo has gone down as well, as evidenced in interviews and the vast discography of music he has amassed since 2006.
If Hebdo were a salesman, they’re doing wonders for the listening audience by selecting adventure folk as their sales pitch. The welcoming, wobbling distortion that greets us and bleeds into a catchy, ho-hum strum on “Face the Kindness” will have you ready to hit the road. The minute-long fadeout of “Figure Somethin’” is reminiscent of the pitter pattering of slowed-down train tracks.
And while I’ll spend a good portion of this review raving about the sonic texture of this LP, it would be remiss to not mention the lyrics that go hand-in-hand with Hebdo’s vagabond escapades. At the beginning of the second track, Hebdo croons, “I’ll figure somethin’ out on my own.” This is the adventurers’ mantra, forever looking for answers outside of our home when the people in our life can’t provide them. “Interstate” also leads with this sentiment: “Think I’ll find my own way home tonight.” The seventh track is even aptly titled “Vagrants.” Basically, if you’re not hitting play on this album while you’re traversing the wide, open country, you’re doing it wrong.
Another common theme on Stop Motion Times is the pop-writing sensibilities of the 1960s and ‘70s that Hebdo seems to be inspired by. “Heart Out” transplants you back to the summer of 1969. The jingly “Interstate,” with its whistling chorus, seems fit for a ‘70s automobile ad, with scenery of nothing but the desert dirt road in front of you. Songs like “Now & Then” harmonize much like the prolific songwriters of this same era.
Again, it’s easy to be taken away by the intricate and delicate instrumentation of this album that you’re frequently and pleasantly reminded of how much of a vocal talent Joey Hebdo is. Tracks such as “Little Rose” that prominently feature his smooth and silky voice, singing, “Like a whisper fills an empty station.” This is a fitting testament to both the person and artist and another exemplary example of the singer-songwriter’s soulful symphony. While having a discussion the other day with a stranger at an art show, my friend and I used the word “heady” to describe a film we had watched. In their response, this person mentioned how generic of a term heady has become. My reply went something like, “I like using basic words so that the message can reach more people.” Language and writing are tools that should be used to help the most people understand something more. Not make it more confusing. About a year ago, there was a discussion going on around the Columbus music scene about how there should be a larger presence of elevated journalism in the music scene (think the crowd that Pitchfork attracted with their no-feelings-considered reviews in the early ‘00s). While I do believe and always hope for more music critics to exist in the Columbus ecosystem, I don’t think adding so-called intellectuals into the pool will help the scene where it stands at the moment. It has room to grow before nasty critics should slither their way in.
If Joey Hebdo wants to call his music adventure folk, I think he has more than earned the right to do so. It’s one of the most appropriate tags to a Columbus musician I’ve come across in some time. It can be applied to almost all of Stop Motion Times’ tracks. The leading track, “Face the Kindness” has the rhythm of a jubilant hiker about to explore the mountain range on a beautiful, enormous sky day. “Heart Out” plops you in a two-person canoe, effortlessly drifting down a shrubbery-hidden, tranquil stream before that electrifying fadeout. “Interstate” gets you in the groovy mood to hit the road with your partner to who knows where, before the last three tracks have you back traversing the world on foot in melancholy, upbeat, and reflective moods respectively.
Music that comes out of Ohio, especially the Columbus region, has the coincidental tendency to have you longing to travel elsewhere. (CAAMP and El Camino Acid immediately come to mind.) The common theme amongst songs by groups such as Hebdo is that Ohio is both a place to escape from but always a place you can come back to for grounding. Stop Motion Times does a tremendous job of executing this message over eight tunes.
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