Would You Stay is the second full-length LP by LA songstress Steffaloo. Her music is described as "folk" in the press, but to me this is pop music with acoustic guitar. It's not like she is Vashti Bunyan or something -- i think Steffaloo has more in common with Heather Duby, Laura Viers, or Suzanne Vega, all of whom i consider pop artists.
What i mean is that this is vocal driven music with an acoustic guitar and a variety of sounds in the background, and not stories set to music. Actually, i guess the distinction between "pop" and "folk" is pretty vague, and there is probably a lot of overlap. I just feel that labeling Steffaloo as a "folk singer" would make a quite a few potential fans skip over this music. So i guess the point is this -- if you like either folk or pop music, there is something to enjoy here.
Steffaloo's music is vaguely lo-fi in that the recording of the various sounds, including her voice, is often a little out of focus. That all adds to the vaguely melancholy feeling of the songs here.
Opener Would You Stay is also a free track. Just head over to SoundCloud to hear it for yourself. I find this to be a lovely tune, her voice slightly wistful over the strummed echoing guitar and some sparse, odd percussion. It sets the tone for the rest of the record nicely.
From here, the music takes a turn into a more minimal realm. On So I'll Go her voice is just slightly echoed over tinkling guitar and a sample of waves in the distance. The waves give this song a very sad feeling, as if she is leaving on a sea voyage, but not happy about leaving. Keeping it simple, she also manages to make the nest track, Can't You See, seem funky. She sings a plays guitar that speeds up and slows down while accompanied by a smattering of hand claps. The clapped percussion makes this really fun. I think this is my favorite tune here.
The interesting thing here is the thematic transition between these first three songs. The first is her asking you not to go, the second is her mournfully leaving, and the third is her telling you she didnít need you anyway. A logical progression of the emotion of a breakup, i guess. Is this her breakup record?
Shifting gears, Steffaloo puts down the guitar for I'm Sorry which has a swaying keyboard melody (that almost sounds like a calliope) and her voice echoed and in layers. This reminds me, slightly, of that first Heather Duby record.
Lonely Night is the most melancholy song on this record, which is saying something, really. Steffaloo warbles over a sparse strummed guitar, while a recording of a storm plays in the background. She sings about "drink one more / until i feel no more" while rain drizzles and she strums in a desultory manner. Poor Steffaloo...
Oh No, Oh Dear has some nice vocal layering that really works. Her voice sounds so much richer when layered like this. If You Were My Baby has a nice saunter. There is some kind of backing vocal loop that seems old-timey, like a recording from the 1940s played on an old radio, but faintly. Over this, she plays a catchy guitar riff. Nice.
Steffaloo plugs in for Rainy Fingers which is more of an interlude than a song. Here guitar sounds electrically echoed, as she oohs in the background while a steady drum beat thuds away. Something about the beat and the echoed guitar make me think of The Chameleons.
She brings in some strings on Fight & Flail, which is a nice accompaniment to her singing and strumming.
I Would Have Loved You is a good pop tune with a faint keyboard drone under her strumming and voice. However, this song is destined to be added to a hundred "let's just be friends" type of playlists by a thousand earnest teenagers over the next few years.
My Heart Beats is pretty complex for Steffaloo. It has a faint, brushed drum beat, a little keyboard melody, and her voice, distant and fed through a mild autotune effect. It's nice, but short. And then it's back to the sparseness for The Whale And Me, which is just her echoed guitar and distant voice. It is rather pretty, but also kind of generic for what Steffaloo does.
And finally things wrap up with You, which adds some kind of shaken percussion to her voice and guitar. It is a nice ending to the record.
Overall, i am pleased with this record. Steffaloo is not re-inventing the wheel, but she makes some nice, light music.