Christopher Paul Stelling – ‘False Cities’

Of ‘False Cities’, Sarah Weitman says, “It’s impossible for me to find a song on this album I don’t like, and hard for me to pick one that I like better than any others.”

Sarah Weitman

8.5
out of 10

christopher paul stelling
False Cities
May 21st, 2013
Dollartone Records

Despite living in New York, Christopher Paul Stelling has a voice and a talent for playing the guitar that was made for porch sitting, driving on backroads, or hanging out around a campfire with friends in the woods. Really, anything that brings to mind a small southern town rather than the lights of the big city seems to accompany his songs. Though he may just be a man with a guitar, there is much more to his music which can be heard as soon as he starts singing. He puts emotion into every song that he sings and you can tell that he is feeling every word that he sings. The stories of his songs create imagery that sends you into them and, when coupled with his sometimes raspy, sometimes gruff, but always comforting voice, he makes you feel right there with him.

Stelling released his first record, Songs of Praise and Scorn, in February 2012 to many positive reviews. While that album is great, there is a little something that gets lost in presentation, not really getting across how fantastic his voice and guitar playing is in person. This loss is nonexistent on his False Cities. It takes everything that made Songs good, but ups the ante. The simplicity is still there, with his guitar and voice as the focal point of each and every song and the occasional beautiful back-up vocals, but he has added the background instruments to some songs without being overpowering (“Brick x Brick,” “Who I Am,” “The Waiting Swamp,” “Free to Go,” “Go Your Way, Dear”).

It’s impossible for me to find a song on this album I don’t like, and hard for me to pick one that I like better than any others. Most of the songs on this album are made for toe tapping, no matter where you are. The opening track, “Brick x Brick” is probably my favorite; granted, it is also the song that introduced me to Stelling. As far as toe tapping goes, “Free to Go” is a close second. “The Waiting Swamp” has so many different interesting sounds accompanying the music. There are nature sounds, what sounds like chains, and a violin. There are three slower songs on the album that showcase Stelling’s abilities, “You Can Make It,” Homesick Tributaries” and “Go Your Way, Dear.” Though I am not the target audience for the song (because I’m not a son), “Homesick Tributaries” is tied for my second favorite song from the album. And it makes me want to go hang out with my dad.

Christopher Paul Stelling debuted his sophomore album, False Cities via Dollartone Records on May 21st. You can also hear him on two Daytrotter sessions (in 2010 and 2012) featuring songs from both albums.