Album Review: Stephen Bailey Makes Ethereal Bliss on Silo
I was driving home one day when a song on RTRFM caught my attention. It sounded a bit like Tame Impala, but from an alternate dimension where everyone lived underwater. I was captivated, and the moment I pulled into the drive way, I grabbed my phone and Shazam-ed it. That song was “Sub Zero” by Perth's Stephen Bailey (of Mt. Mountain fame), and I have been hooked to his sound ever since.
I suppose you’d call Silo, Bailey’s debut solo record, a dream pop album. However, it's one that is closer in spirit to the understated hypnotism of Galaxie 500 than the cinematic takes of Cocteau Twins or Beach House. Silo is instead a masterclass on patient mood building. The arrangements are subtle, the production is dense and drenched in reverb, and the performances are of stellar quality.
Bailey also isn’t afraid to get adventurous. Despite unquestionably remaining a cohesive body of work, Silo draws from a plethora of sounds. The stirring piano ballad “Let’s Try Love” is a sure highlight; it’s as comforting as a cup of tea on a rainy night. The vocal melody and delivery on “Blue Eyes” could make you emotional even if he was singing a tomato soup recipe, though thankfully his economical yet affecting lyrics elevates the song to an otherworldly place. Bailey also dips his toe into indie folk territory, such as the Fleet Foxes-esque “Mr. Fair”. There’s a handful of instrumental cuts too, including the chipper “Halcyon” and the contemplative piano take of “The Falons”, the album’s concluding song. No matter where he takes the listener, Bailey never sounds like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, instead he continues guiding the listener down a gorgeous, dreamy path through the woods, fields or by a river (whatever naturalistic analogy works for you).
Throughout the album, Bailey arranges his own voice to form a ghostly choir that stops you in your tracks. This approach is exemplified by the soul-stirring chorus of “Josephine”, one of many highlights, and the groovy, classic rock-era pop of “Take It Up”. The production on Silo is so vital to the album’s aesthetic it almost becomes an instrument of itself. It also allows Silo to fit any mood you want to take from it. Go for a walk in the rain to it, put it on at the end of a house party, drive to it, study to it or just simply listen on headphones… No matter how you listen to this record, it’s sure to pass the test.