Stick Figure – World On Fire – Album Review by Pat Douglas

So there’s this movie coming out soon – it doesn’t matter what movie – but you’re really looking forward to seeing it. Trailers come out and you watch them all, getting a glimpse into said movie. The people that put those trailers together do it all to keep out as many spoilers as possible, to avoid giving away too much. The movie industry has been doing this for years and has gotten pretty good at it. Lately, it seems something similar is happening in the music industry. Don’t get me wrong, I always love getting new music from my favorite bands and I’m never going to say no thank you. But I do feel like releasing singles from an upcoming album can go too far. There was a time when a new album from your favorite artist was an experience. You’d buy it and listen from start to finish….taking it all in as a single cohesive work. Sometimes, the album would even follow a sort of narrative and tell you a story. While the release of multiple singles does nothing to diminish the overall work, to me, it does seem to take a bit away from the new album experience.

With Stick Figure’s latest work of art, World on Fire, six of the album’s fifteen songs were released as singles. Starting in 2017 (almost two full years before the album release), we were treated to hearing over a third of the new album. Upon the release of the full album itself, listening to it for the first time didn’t fully feel like it was the first time. Does this make the quality of the album any less? Absolutely not. Does this take away from the beauty that is the Stick Figure sound? Absolutely not. Does it take away from that new album smell? Maybe a little bit…at least for me. Now, allow me to jump down off my soapbox and get down to what you are here to read…

Stick Figure, the nickname for frontman and multi-instrumentalist Scott Woodruff, has been on a meteoric rise in the reggae-rock scene over the last few years. Since his humble beginnings, writing and recording music in his homemade bedroom studio, to the cabin in the woods (where he wrote and recorded Set in Stone), to the amazing space now called Great Stone Studios – Stick Figure has been expertly honing his sound. There is a very unique tone and feeling to every Stick Figure song. It’s unmistakable, from the first note to the last beat – undeniably Stick Figure. World on Fire is no exception.

The album kicks off with a new one – Once in a Lifetime. On this track, you are instantly pulled in to the world of Stick Figure bliss. The atmospheric intro that bleeds right into that signature Stick Figure beat leads you down this bouncy and relaxing path of immersion that Woodruff happily hangs his hat on. The production on this one (and pretty much everything Woodruff gets his hands on) is so top notch– I’m tempted to say perfect. It’s so easy to get lost in the music, that one might just take the vocals as another piece of instrumentation. However, as any Stick Figure fan knows, you don’t pass up on Woodruff’s lyrics. Once in a Lifetime, in my humble opinion, might be some of the best lyricism from the man.

“I’m done running away. I’m coming, I will escape. Take me away, this place is never the same. Never the same…This is once in a lifetime. Yeah, but I’m done running away, It’s something I can’t explain. Ready for change…you know that I can’t stay. It’s never the same, this is once in a lifetime”

There is definitely no easing into the new album here. The one-two punch of Once in a Lifetime, followed by the title track, World on Fire kicks things into high gear. Featuring Kyle McDonald of Slightly Stoopid, World on Fire is a funk-laden track filled with social commentary. The third single from the album released back in June of 2018, has been a staple in my playlists for a while now. McDonald, a frequent Stick collaborator, really knocks his vocal out on this one (as he always does). Blending in so well with Woodruff’s vocal style – the contrast between the two flows almost as good as Kyle does with Miles.

Next up is the final single before the album release. A surprise coming a little more than a week before, Angels Above Me also came with a well-shot video (Who knew Scott could do a backflip off of a cliff?). This one feels like an intensely personal song and one that will definitely speak directly to a lot of fans. The smooth acoustic opening gives way to a rolling beat and bouncing bassline that takes you on a floating journey above the waves. This one can definitely give you a deep and satisfying feeling of peace as the lyrics leaving you aching for those gone too soon.

Another new one follows. Shine just might be my new favorite Stick song. Debuted live a few times before release, this is the first time we hear it in all its glory. In classic Stick style, the bassline jumps right in and keeps bouncing throughout. Shine also has one of my favorite guitar licks punctuated throughout the song. Not only that, but Scott’s lyricism is front and center here too. I can’t seem to get enough of this one, as I find myself putting it on repeat quite often.

“Had a dream I was flying, Where I go when I want to be free. All this time I’ve been trying, To escape to the place where I belong.”

Next in line is another surprise single release. Initially posted to the Stick Figure Family group, and dedicated by Scott himself to the fam is All For You. With its own separate cover art (an artistic
rendering of the Stick Family picture taken at this year’s Cali Roots Festival – now I really wish I had gone) and another video – this one definitely has the strongest bassline on the album. Put it on your biggest speakers and crank it up – really piss off your neighbors with the thump. It’s a simple song, but sometimes those are the best ones. With a dub-styled treatment and the simple lyrics, I feel this one calls back to some of Stick’s earlier work and it fits in perfectly on the album.

Following that one is the first single from the album. Above the Storm was released almost two full years before the album. This is one of those songs that just fill you with hope and positivity – as
many Stick songs tend to do. Encouraging us all to rise above it all, live in the moment – Above the Storm is another track where Woodruff’s lyrics definitely shine. Laced with a dubby atmosphere and excellent guitar work, it’s no wonder this one was chosen to be released so early.

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for since Burial Ground, the return of a track featuring TJ O’Neill. Whiskey Sun is sure to become a staple at live shows. This one is a very fun song and TJ’s energy on stage is so infectious. Not to mention the chorus, which I can’t wait to hear a huge crowd belting out.

“Smoking makes the sun come up, Whiskey makes the sun go down. And in between all the little things that don’t mean much, We do a lot of standing around”

Now we get a fresh, and to be honest, an unexpected collaboration with Citizen Cope. Summertime is a blissful summer jam that was released (you guessed it) in the summer before the release of the album. Woodruff had teased us last year with a picture of him and Cope in the studio together and this one is the product of that. I’ve been a fan of Cope for a long time and at first – I had trouble imagining what this collaboration would be like. Cope & Woodruff have fairly different singing styles, but after the first listen I definitely found out why they came together. They trade verses throughout and it couldn’t feel more natural. Definitely a strong single and I do hope to hear them collaborate again.

Easy Runaway hits us next and hits us hard. The second single from the album, I was probably more obsessed with this one than any of the singles. I think I probably repeated this one about 100
times before I could stop listening. Accompanied by a lyric video, I had this one memorized within a couple of hours of the release. The rhythm and flow on this one must have just spilled out of Scott as he was writing it, as it washes over the ears in waves when you listen to it. With the accompanying positive message, this one is pure Stick Figure goodness.

From here on out, we get all new tracks…kinda like a new EP at the end of the album. Starting off with a bit of a dark sound is The Great Unknown. This one has a vibe similar to Sentenced (off Set in Stone) as it has that melodic bounce and the lyrics come fast and deep.

“Look at this life and all we have found, We’re looking for something special. Only live once, only to find we’re looking for something special.”

Rise and Fall is another track that is pure Stick Figure. The bassline takes center stage here and keeps your head bopping from start to finish. Punctuated by crisp and clean drum work, you literally rise and fall throughout. With the simple, but beautiful, lyric structure – this one is destined to be another sing-a-long at live shows.

“I could’ve saw it coming, but the voices in my head they won’t stop”

Have you ever imagined what it would sound like if Neil Diamond went reggae? Yeah, me either, but now I have. Neil Diamond has this wonderful way of making any lyric sound absolutely perfect – no matter how corny or cheesy the lyric may be. When I first saw the tracklist for World on Fire – corny came to mind when I saw Life is a Party. My initial thought was yeah….Scott probably did something there that changed it to something thought-provoking and deep. While that is partially true here, the hook is definitely Diamond’esqe. Like many other songs on this album, I definitely hear thousands of fans scream “Life is a Party” at the top of their lungs.

After the party, we get our dedication to everyone’s favorite canine and also the only cover on the album. Cocoa de Rock – originally Cocody Rock by Alpha Bondy – has been a song Stick fans hope to hear at live shows for a while now and it’s great to hear it from the studio. While staying very true to the original, there is definitely a decidedly Stick twist to it.

Closing out the album are two songs that definitely will evoke some nostalgic feelings in Stick fans. Filled with the echoes and accents that have made the Stick sound what it is, each sees Woodruff
flexing his lyrical genius. Welcome to the Sun, with all the instrumentation in perfect harmony, gives you everything you want in a Stick Figure song and tells you a story along the way. Burn the Night seems to be the perfect end to a fantastic album. In a sense, saying let’s get high and listen to some tunes – I can see this one being the song at the end of a setlist but before the encores.

“Take what you want give the rest away, but some may say the world’s a stage, I just want to play”

All in all, while we waited for quite some time for a new Stick album and we got a good chunk of it before that album came – the satisfaction we get from the album is everything I expected and then some. So, I’ll see you at the show and will be singing along with you all.

 

stickfiguremusic.com

 

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