(Mangled Tapes) Stepping Stone is Doug Hoyer’s fourth album, but his first since he moved to Athens from Canada a year and a half ago. A regular on the live scene, Hoyer’s latest offers those still unfamiliar with his studiously simplistic folk-pop a chance to get acquainted.
“Welcome Back” opens the record with lo-fi finesse; the fingerpicked, major-key acoustic track functions as tone-setter and introduction. It’s followed by “Snail Shell,” a jaunty, polished tune that calls to mind the eclectic pop of Eels. Elsewhere, Hoyer does his best Jonathan Richman (“Ode to Shows”) and evokes anti-folk troubadour Jeffrey Lewis (“Thank You”).
Despite Hoyer’s assertion that parts of the record represent post-election frustration, Stepping Stone is an overwhelmingly cheery document. The Casio flourishes of “A Link to the Past” and unbridled geekdom of “My First Star Trek Convention” round out what’s ultimately a painstakingly earnest affair, steeped in the sort of optimism that, while out of step with the cultural mood, is no less essential in these times.
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