Up and Away: Loser Edition Blue Vinyl LPSP1483
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: 17th June
This record has a magic ability to transport us to a Greek island, enjoying drinks in the sun, eating fresh feta salad and dancing to 60s European pop. It’s music released today but sounds like a psych pop folk disco gem played out on a village cafe jukebox. So much charm to this record.
For those who dig: psychedelic euro disco folk pop.
Σtella makes her Sub Pop debut with the mesmerizing Up and Away, an old-school pop paean to the pangs and raptures of love. From the Greek folk-inflected get-go, we’re swept up in Σtella’s world – and it’s quite the captivating place to be. The singer-songwriter joined forces with artist and producer Tom Calvert (aka Redinho), and it was a match made in Athens; the results are heavenly. Tom caught one of Σtella’s gigs on a visit to the city. He reached out, they started hanging out, and the pair soon clicked creatively. Both mention chemistry when asked about their collaboration and it’s clear, from what we hear, they had it in spades. The meld is seamless. Σtella’s songs have always riffed on American and Greek mid-century pop but Up and Away doubles down on the vintage aesthetic. Tom says he styled the record “as if it was a rare gem from the ’60s found in a box of records in Athens,” and Σtella notes she was ready for a more “deeply Greek touch – it felt comfortable and right, smoothly fusing with the pop.” The bouzouki appears on a full five tracks played by Christos Skondras who, she says, “was brilliant at improvising,” while Sofia Labropoulou on the kanun “brought an insane amount of dreaminess to the last two songs. Having these amazing musicians play for Up and Away – I couldn’t be more grateful.” While not exclusively a confessional artist, Σtella is always intimate – when she sings, it’s personal. She writes “about things I feel passion for. Stories about me, about others, about all that’s there in love and war.” Σtella was “in a very emotional state at the time, which came through in the lyrics and vocals.” And it’s true, her honeyed voice – layered in those unmistakable harmonies of hers – thrillingly runs the gamut from tender to terse, by turns bracing and smitten, aching and forlorn. But it’s the lyrics that feel key. Across her output, Σtella has proven herself a strong storyteller, and Up and Away is no exception (the guise of the medieval bard she assumes on the cover is telling). Past releases have been studded with gem-like vignettes – a diverse array of stories set tightly together to form non-linear narratives unified by emotion. Her latest feels singular in that it seems to trace a longer-form tale across songs, with each track escalating the record’s erotic arc. By the end of the album, Up and Away’s core concerns are clear: the conflicting and conflicted emotions inherent in love, that live on in ways we can’t always understand or control. Love is like this record: when it’s over, you still feel it for time to come.