In a way, I’ve built a brand on Allen Stone. As early as 2012, I was covering his concerts for my personal Tumblr as a way to practice my blogging skills. As late as 2016, I was posting my review of Radius on my music blog on Tumblr that had started out as an Allen Stone fan site.
Recently, Allen released his fourth studio album, Building Balance, and I realized that I wasn’t as in love with him as I used to be. Don’t get me wrong, those vocals are still very lovely, and his sound is still progressing. However, I’m just not in love with Allen anymore.
But that’s a post for another day, because I came here to talk about this new album.
Building Balance, as I’ve said before, is Allen’s fourth studio album, and it delivers a very late 90s/early 00s sound. I’m hesitant to call it a Grunge R&B, but it’s exactly what I would expect Kurt Cobain to listen to if he listened to R&B. I’ve never been to Seattle, but this album makes me wonder if I should go see Allen perform it in his home state.
I want to put it out there that my least favorite song on this album, and in Allen’s entire discography, is “Back to the Swing”. Allen has no business rapping. If the point was to call back to the New Jack Swing era, then he definitely nailed it, but I am not here for any piece or particle of this song. I thought nothing would beat “Guardian Angel”, but here I stand corrected.
“Sweaters” is very smooth jazz, and I love how it’s supposed to be a break up song, but sounds more like he’s subtly convincing the other person to stay. The chorus goes, “you can take back all your sweaters/ I just want the one with the coffee stain”, and it’s like he just wants something to remember them by if they’re truly going to leave. I’m just in love with the sound of it, specifically the drums and the bass guitar.
Without a doubt, “Brown Eyed Lover” is my absolute favorite track on this entire album, and probably the best thing Allen has made in my opinion. I’d been jamming this song for at least a year before the album was released. It’s like a jazz rock sound that sticks with you. An absolute bop, as the internet says. I could and already have played this song on repeat. I’ve even gotten other people into it. I see Jason Holt’s name among the 6 people listen as songwriters for this song, and I wonder if the whole band put this one together. If so, good job guys.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say anything about the fact that Jason Holt is no longer a part of Allen Stone’s band. I don’t know the particulars, or rather, I only know what was posted on the Facebook fan page about it, and happened to be online when the group members (of the fan page) were arguing over it. I will admit that it has me side eyeing everyone involved, but I wasn’t there and I don’t think we’ll ever know the full of it. That being said, I will miss Mr. Holt. He was always a great part of the show.
“I’m Alright” does something with the chorus that I wish I knew the name of, but I feel like it sounds the same regardless of who is using the technique. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it, I love it in fact. However, I just wish I knew the name of it. It’s like the THX sound effect except for songs.
“Look Outside” sounds very 80s Lite Rock/Easy Listening or whatever Christopher Cross would have been considered at the time. It also is very reminiscent of Allen’s cover of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”, so now I’m wondering if I should update my summary of this album to a Grunge Jazz instead of a grunge R&B. Yes, I think this album is more Grunge Jazz than Grunge R&B.
“Consider Me” was recently used for a promotion with WeddingWire that I feel was poorly promoted. The idea was for people to send in their wedding vows to be used in the video for this song, and the winner would get tickets to one of Allen’s shows. Thing is, Allen nor WeddingWire promoted the contest until the night before it was supposed to be ending. Like, I only found out about it a few days before because I was looking to see if he’d be passing through Houston at some point on this tour.
(He never does, we’re always an October surprise for some reason.)
The wedding song is “Give You Blue”, not only because Allen began writing this when he was marrying his wife, but the verses read like wedding vows. The moment I heard it, I knew this song was for me. It’s a very sweet, but blunt, way to say “I can’t do the impossible, but I can do my best”. I felt like that was all you can really ask of someone, and so I played it for my then husband-to-be, and we danced our first dance to it at our wedding.
I believe “Warriors” was used for the Special Olympics, and while I wasn’t immediately endeared to it – which I feel had something to do with the lyric video – I can attest that it is a pretty good song. The sound is very exciting, and the cadence keeps the 90s theme. I could see myself trying to run or workout to this, so I understand why it was a good fit for the Olympics, special or not.
I feel like the best part of Building Balance is that it feels like all of the songs that were released in the interim between albums actually ended up on this album. I remember being absolutely pissed that both “Voodoo” and “Million” were left off of Radius originally.
Speaking of that, I don’t think I ever bothered to listen to the rest of the deluxe version of Radius. I should probably fix that.
Two of these songs sound kind of similar, and I really feel like it’s “Hold it Down” and “Lay it Down”. I understand that okay, they’re not super similar – they’re both good songs in their own rights – but the naming choice is just unfortunate. And it doesn’t help that they’re not very far from each other on the album. So it’s like one song is not completely out of your head before you hear the other, and it feels like you’re hearing the same song again. Unfortunate.
I don’t really know what to say about “Sunny Days”. It’s on theme, but it really feels like it came from the same session as “Guardian Angel”. It’s like “Guardian Angel”’s twin, except “Sunny Days” sounds better. I have no real hate against this song, but I know it was part of the preview on Apple Music before the album was released, so I hope it wasn’t a single.
Of course it is.
“Chippin’ Away”, “Miscommunicate”, and “Taste of You” are all great songs with diverse sounds, but are still on theme. I feel all of these songs could be sleeper singles by themselves – especially “Taste of You” – or just show up on someone’s soundtrack like “Say So” did a few years back. They all sound very organic to Allen’s brand, and I love them.
I love how I started this review off by saying how I wasn’t as in love with Allen as I used to be. I’m still not, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over how I connect to his music. The decision to write this review made me really bother to go back and listen to the album, which is something that I hadn’t really bothered to do in full because the first try just left me underwhelmed somewhere between “Consider Me” and “Hold it Down”. I’m happy I did though, because now I can appreciate the album as a whole and recognize that I very much am still about Allen’s music.
So here’s to a fourth Allen Stone album earning it place in playlist, and another successful project for Mr. Stone.
Please bring Tingsek back for the next one.
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