The Stepkids – Troubadour
The second LP from this Connecticut trio plays with jazz, soul and vintage pop signatures in a glossy, superficial manner that struggles to extend its emotional range beyond a self-conscious chirpiness. At points, the funk basslines, noodly guitar work and high-pitched male vocals, while demonstrating impressive musicianship, can feel meandering and uncertain. While there is plenty of variation in structure and arrangements, it’s the uniformity of tone that makes Troubadour an occasionally wearing listen.
If that was all the record consisted in, it would be a seriously bland proposition. Some amends are made, however, by The Stepkids’ laudable willingness to embellish their generic templates with playful electronica, brass and woodwind, which brings depth and variety to their influences. At points, as on the slap-bass heavy Moving Pictures, they do hint at a soulful, Prince-esque swagger that reaches beyond the kitsch. All too often, however, Troubadour’s efforts to ingratiate merely end up grating.