Stuyvesant, the high-energy indie rock band from New Jersey, is unabashedly, and refreshingly, forward with its intention to lose all pretenses and just play good rock music. From its solid rhythm section to its catchy melodies, Stuyvesant throws everything it has on the table for Fret Sounds, the band’s second full-length album. It ends up with 10 songs that are most effective when the guitars are upfront, the drums are heavy and the lyrics are clever.
Opening track “Clyde” epitomizes the simple and effective formula that the band uses so well: steady rhythms, blazing guitar work, tempo variations, sing-along choruses and vocals that somehow maintain their musicality even when inching toward screaming. When Stuyvesant sings, “Selfish. Hellish/It’s been duly noted that you are ego-centric./Gutless. Clueless,” on “Duly Noted,” the phrasing is so fitting with the instrumentals that the words don’t feel overly harsh, just accurate.
Fret Sounds, a play on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, emphasizes the four band members’ strengths as musicians, from Sean Adams and Ralph Malanga’s guitar riffs and harmonies on “Let’s Talk Topography” to the smart lyrics of “Bullfrog.” All the while, Pete Martinez and B. Musikoff are anchoring the music with a rhythm section that is capable both of providing a solid foundation and of taking the lead. All of these parts come together on “Neato,” an inescapably joyful track that is set apart by its pop hook and that succeeds in the mission it sets forth in the first verse when it vows to do “anything to brighten up your day.” By the time the too-brief a cappella section at the end arrives, there really isn’t anything left to do but succumb to Stuyvesant’s charm and do as it says.
For an album that starts out so crazed and remains that way for much of its duration, it goes out not with a bang but with a gradual fading until there is nothing left on serene closing track “Cimarron, NM” but the vibrations of the sound that was once overwhelming. It’s a kind way to end: After spending nine tracks riling you up, Stuyvesant brings you down gently.