Release Date: 19th March 2021
Record Label: Entertainment One
For Fans Of: The Black Keys, Royal Blood, Highly Suspect
Breaking into an oversaturated genre like modern rock seems an impossible task, especially when put up against the likes of The Black Keys and Royal Blood. But Canadian newcomers The Blue Stones have managed to do just that with their latest release Hidden Gems, which manages to build on their own distinctive sound while subtly nodding to other giants in the genre.
Hidden Gems offers up the bold hit ‘Shakin’ Up The Rust’, a direct reply to The Blue Stones’ previous roaring hit, ‘Black Holes (Solid Ground)’. The lead single of the album does exactly what it says it will, pushing itself to the forefront with its scuzzy guitars, driving drum beats, and a thundering chorus that gives Royal Blood a run for their money. Fans of more melodic tunes will also be at home with the grooving riffs and driving drums of ‘L.A. Afterlife’ and ‘Spirit’. Right from the opening track, ‘Lights On’, Hidden Gems wastes no time in offering incredibly catchy rock anthems and keeping you hooked right until the end.
Whether it be the heavier riffs as seen in ‘Shakin’ Off The Rust’ and ‘Grim’, or the funkier tunes of ‘L.A. Afterlife’ and ‘Spirit’, one of Hidden Gems’ real strengths lies in its range. Indeed, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the more intimate ballads of ‘Careless’ and ‘Make This Easy’ came straight off a Khalid record. Songs blend seamlessly into each other, with the crashing riffs of ‘Shakin’ Off The Rust’ gradually fading away into the minimalist soundscapes of ‘Oceans’. This poses a danger of the album sounding disjointed and random, but instead the record is a flowing, cohesive final product rather than just a collection of sporadic hits. For example, ‘Make This Easy’ and ‘Careless’ don’t hold the same weight or replayability as the rest of the songs on the record, but they do offer more calming reprieves that really help to piece together the album in a more thoughtful way. Similar to their first album, Hidden Gems is beautifully composed and musically diverse, offering powerful singles and knitting them together with tracks that are much more than just filler.
Because of the nature of the genre, easy comparisons can be made with bands like Highly Suspect and KALEO, and Tarek Jafar’s vocals are reminiscent of The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach in particular, capable of being both beautifully melodic and incredibly powerful. The Blue Stones are much more than that however, and are capable of tapping into the common and effective staples of modern rock while also producing a unique and varied album that is very much their own.
Overall, Hidden Gems comes across as an incredibly solid and well-polished album, capable of showcasing the true range of good rock’n’roll The Blue Stones can produce. It stands out in an oversaturated genre, luring you in with rocking riffs and keeping your attention with catchy, driving rhythms and the occasional calming reprieve. In this regard, the record lives up to its namesake, providing a real range of new musical talent for us to enjoy.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Shakin’ Off The Rust’, ‘L.A. Afterlife’, ‘Let It Ride’