If you’ve read any of my writings since 2012, you’ll be very much aware that I am an Allen Stone fan. He was introduced to me by my friend, Bunny, with whom I run the fan Tumblr, FYeahAllenStone. I want to say that he was suggested to me in March of 2012, and, by May, I was at fangirl status as far as his music was concerned. He was my very first non-church related concert; the experience is something that Bunny and I, along with our friend, Dee, still talk about to be this day. It was so good, that we went to see him play almost the exact same setlist 5 months later, and another modified version in August of 2014. So when I tell you that I have been waiting years for this album, I mean it.
Before I go any further, I want to let it be known that I write this review as a fan dedicated to this man’s work. This album is definitely worth your money and your time, but if you want an unbiased review that just says “YASSS, this album is great!!!” and gives it some random rating, you need to go elsewhere.
Radius as a product, is exactly what I have been waiting for, although I’m not too sure if that’s a good thing. By no means is this a bad, or even just okay, album. Allen Stone has very much put his foot all up and through it. Then Magnus Tingsek went back through, and made sure that every song he featured on was fire. That’s all well and good, but I already expected Radius to be great. I’ve known for two years that Allen Stone + Tingsek = great music, but I expected something more. And I’m not quite sure what that is.
When the track list for Radius was sampled on his Facebook back in April, I was a bit disappointed that “Voodoo” and “Million” were not going to be on the album. I understand that it is common practice for artists to release singles to drum up anticipation for a new album that might not actually be on the album itself, but “Voodoo” and “Million” had a way better fit on this album than “Guardian Angel” and “Freezer Burn” do. “Guardian Angel” sounds like Allen’s going to start rapping at any moment, which is weird because I don’t think anyone asked for that. I never truly liked “Freezer Burn”, but, surely, a mastered studio version of “Voodoo” would have done better.
The decision to collaborate with Tingsek has always been something that I’ve supported, but the better songs are obviously the ones that he’s singing backup on,”Circle” being my favorite. It’s almost like you’re listening to two different albums when you think about it: one that is produced by Tingsek, and one that isn’t. I don’t think I need to tell you which album is better, but neither is doing anything to give this album the something more that it needs.
I feel like, if I was new to Allen Stone’s music and had never seen him in concert, I would be beyond satisfied with this album. This album has another month of replays for the whole track list, but, I feel like if I were new to this game, I’d be screaming to Heaven about how great this album is. I won’t say Allen Stone or Last to Speak were better albums, but neither is Radius the best overall.
The problem with Radius is not that it is not a good album, it’s a great album, but I don’t feel like it’s doing anything new. Radius is the natural progression from Allen Stone, which was, in itself, the more refined and polished sequel to Last to Speak. If Allen Stone plans to stay low key and rock the hipster crowd, then Radius has done it’s job. It is the almost perfect new entry into the Blue-Eyed Soul sub-genre. He can continue to languish with the likes of Mayer Hawthorne, James Morrison, and Travis Garland; forever selling out concerts, but never quite gaining the commercial status that he deserves.
Deep in my heart, I think I’ll always want for Allen to stay that way. His concerts are relatively cheap, and always an experience. He always brings new acts that, even if you don’t fully enjoy them, are worth remembering. I absolutely love that he wants us to support real live music, because his performances are like religious experiences. However, in order for Allen Stone to grow, he has to do something really unexpected in terms of his music.
I have no idea what unexpected sounds like, but I know it doesn’t sound like Allen Stone joining the machine that is main stream music. It’s nice that he’s being recognized by the Grammy committee, but he doesn’t need to sell his soul to the devil. Yet and still, we never quite know what we can do until we step out of our comfort zones. Dave Matthews and Tingsek are great, but they are musical hipsters making hipster music and doing hipster things. Blue-Eyed Soul is great, but you can only do so much, and you can only go so far, and you can only be so hipster. It’s time for Allen to make some new friends, in new genres (or at least a different sub-genre), and try something new.
‘Til then, Radius is currently available in stores and online. If you want to catch Allen Stone live, he begins his summer tour tonight in Winston Salem, North Carolina.