The Blue Stones take a remarkably vulnerable approach to the rock genre with their new album Pretty Monster.
Formed in 2011 in Windsor, Ontario, The Blue Stones is a two-piece band comprised of Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier. They released their first EP the same year with their debut album Black Holes, following in 2015. The duo has been recognized by the Junos with a nomination for Best Breakthrough Group in 2020. Known for their compilation of rock and other musical genres, The Blue Stones have set out to create a more personal album this time around while maintaining the sound they have already established.
The album begins with “Healing,” a track that sets the pace for Pretty Monster and introduces the theme of overcoming hard times, which is seen again at other points throughout the record. From there, the tracks become more recognizably rock and expands to talk about a variety of things, such as confidence, fame, and the complications within relationships. Generally, the tracks tend to have somewhat similar yet exciting beats with “What’s It Take to Be Happy?” and “Camera Roll” being the most noticeable exceptions. In these songs, the band shows the extent of their vulnerability and offers a different perspective to the rock genre which is stereotypically very loud and aggressive.
“Don’t Miss” is the single you would expect from the group; it’s sharp, quick, and full of energy. Jafar describes it as “a song about feeling confident and feeling like no matter what you do, you win.” On the other hand, “No Angels” is somewhat akin to an alternative sound. There is the signature punch of the drums, but it is less intense. The vocals are also much gentler like those on an indie record.
The album comes to an end with “Dreams on Me,” a rather subdued end to a predominantly rock album. Though it remains on par with the vulnerability present throughout the album, it doesn’t necessarily leave the listener with a sense of completion, but rather the belief that there should be more afterwards. There’s a slight change in tune in the final thirty seconds of the track which offers a pleasant surprise, though it is not enough to change the feeling that there is still something missing.
Pretty Monster is a solid record with each track encapsulating some semblance of the overarching message. However, it seems to fall short of what it sets out to do. The album is meant to have a similar sound to the band’s live shows and, as described by Jafar, be more “in-your-face.” While tracks like “Don’t Miss” and “Let Me Out” most accurately fit this description, it feels as though the two are still holding back with some of their songs. For instance, “Cards Are Down” sounds like it will build throughout the song and finish with a bang, but it never does. If Jafar and Tessier were to amplify the traditional elements of rock and combine them with the same level of vulnerability, that might just be the missing link in this record.
Regardless, The Blue Stones have tasted success and are continuing the experiment within and outside their genre. Their ability to evolve to mix genres and put together a thoughtful album while still staying true to their roots may mean the best is yet to come.