Stock Options Ė Stock Options
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: June 22, 2011
When it comes to a specifically rough, rum soaked brand of instrumental rock, up-and-coming Wisconsin group Stock Options is already establishing its identity firmly in this tradition. The bandís self-titled debut album has a mission statement as straightforward as can be, and throughout its seven tracks it largely sticks to its stomping grounds.
Right from the beginning, "Up With The Sun" cuts to the chase: a booming guitar line sets into a comfortably grungy groove. The track doesnít detour much from the gravel path that it lays out within the first two minutes but opts to find the various ways it can rewire it, and this choice pays off by introducing how skilled the band is at dismantling and fitting together its various pieces to build even grander constructs. Deceptively simple, "Up With The Sun" is a moody, immersive opener that nicely sets the stage for the journey to come.
As if aware of the niche itís playing to, the follow-up is titled "Rum Soaked Crooks", and it more clearly defines the goals of Stock Options while stealthily expanding on its potential. Utilizing the fuzziness of the bandís sound (enhanced by the production) to darker effect, the track veers on a dime, briefly rising above storm-clouds only to come crashing back down in a mess of broken glass and metal. By the time the next track rolls around, you may think youíve heard enough to know where youíre headed next.
Not so fast, though. After all, dark means nothing until itís paired with light; Stock Options gets this and bring out the contrast in their work. "Silver Hooves" and "Hand Me Your Neck" represent the split, and they are arguably the highlight of the album. The two are day and night, the former colorful and deft, the latter brooding and ferocious, and yet they segue into each other perfectly. Both stand out as the peak of a formidable mountain, battered by gusts of wind and snowstorms but equally weathered by the sun.
Stock Options is a powerful opening statement from a band that surely has more coming on the horizon. If thereís a downside, itís that the sound here is so centered that one canít help but wonder if the band hasnít fenced itself in too early. No worries from here, though; as long as Stock Options continues to emphasize moods over sound and capture moments as vivid as the ones found here, this band will have listeners hooked from the very first note.
As AbsolutePunk converts to a new scoring system, I'll be reflecting that change in my personal scoring as well. From now on, these are the standards I will grade by:
-Going by the 10 scale like everybody else.
-Last year, when I rated albums for personal use, I used letter grades instead of the percentage scores given here. I'll still be doing that, but now I'll convert grades to scores on the 10 scale.
10 - incredibly rare, album-of-the-year material. A+
9-9.5 - fantastic, basically flawless. A- to A
8-8.5 - great, top 25 of the year. B+ to A-
7-7.5 - quality, maybe a few issues but still solid all-around. B- to B+
6-6,5 - decent, noticeable issues but worth a listen. C+ to B-
from there, consider 5 to be dead average (so a C). from then on, the scale is roughly the same, a 4 being a high D to low C, a 3 being a flat D, a 2 being a D-, and everything below that being an F. I probably won't ever review anything below a 4 unless there's something about it that merits a review.
-You may note that while I have switched over to the 10 scale, the individual scores are not all the same. That's because of fudge factor, where I attribute a slightly higher score to a good aspect of the album and vice versa. (The average, however, always evens out.) This choice was to capitalize on the category system while still getting to keep my new scores--win-win.