Erin Wolf


By - Apr 1st, 2008 02:52 pm
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It’s to be expected that someone adept in the art of moving from city to city as a kid should not only need to look to music as an escape hatch, but in turn, to have that music be as far-flung as his own hometown track record. David Stükenberg, the kid with suitcase always in hand (he was the veritable “son a preacher man”), finally landed in southeastern Wisconsin after hanging out in the South for many years, getting schooled in a wide range of subjects and what one might loosely term as “diversity studies.” It translates nicely into his music.

Mountain of Pieces, Stükenberg’s full-length debut, sounds like something many musicians hatch after many, many more years. It’s no doubt that Stükenberg’s life-schooled, gospel-tinged pop is an after-effect from his upbringing. Vocals are the centerpiece of the music – equal parts jazz and soul, Stükenberg’s boyishly pleasing voice adding a winning element to the between soft soul revival and bouncy piano pop. Rhodes piano, harmonica, cellos, banjos, toy pianos, trumpets and guitars populate the songs backed by solid gospel choir vocals, creating a jaunty effect. Mountain of Pieces comes off as a Spoon-ish-sounding work, minus the smarminess, turning more into folk and soft soul revival tendencies. Remember the Milwaukee rock band Hudson? There are elements of their style of funk here, too.

The best songs on Mountain of Pieces make use of the energetic youthfulness Stükenberg, at 21, naturally falls into encapsulating, such as his solid opener “Don’t Mind” with it’s crunchy organ lines and horns. The relaxed percussive soulfulness of “Hypothesis” is a sonic study of a sunny afternoon, but nicely clouds over with acid lyrics. Only slight tendencies to become too dear in some spots cause Mountain of Pieces to falter, letting the acoustic, singer-songwriter moments drag down an otherwise buoyant album.

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