On its debut LP Memory Palace, indie rock band Stone Cold Fox creates a sound that is both cohesive and varied. Memory Palace has a largely upbeat feel, broken up by a handful of retrospective moments.
Infusing poppy rock songs with introspective storytelling, the band sounds like a Bob Dylan-fronted version of the Killers. It injects indie rock with a heartfelt folkiness, creating an atmosphere that is both upbeat and organic.
Singer/songwriter Kevin Olken Henthorn lends a spacey, futuristic feel to the band’s sound with his thin, airy voice. Those vocals, however, are not always high enough in the album’s mix to be audible over the lively guitars and keyboards. Memory Palace features additional vocals by Madeline Mondrala, who sings on a handful of tracks, taking over lead vocals only on the punky dance tune “January.” The contrast of male and female voice expands their palate of textures and plays a major role in Stone Cold Fox.
The band creates a seemingly endless array of moods with only basic rock instrumentation.
Memory Palace begins with “Sold,” a song about identity crisis with an uplifting twist: it’s an ode to self acceptance. Henthorn asks listeners to “Take a look in the mirror/and this is who you are,” but is also encouraging with lyrics like, “Take a drag to make it clear/Yeah, you made it here this far.” Mondrala offers a thoughtful coda, closing the song with the conclusive line, “And everything I’m searching for is only in my mind.”
Insightful storytelling skills set Stone Cold Fox one notch higher. While many songs only tell stories from the narrator’s perspective, the tunes dig into the motivations and ambitions of each character.
“Seventeen” tells the story of a teenage runaway desperate to escape her overwhelming boredom. Meanwhile, the narrator of “Time’s Up” analyzes his mental state by questioning a summer lover. Memory Palace’s title track tells the story of a man searching for himself, clearing his mind on a beach. In the chorus of “Memory Palace,” Henthorn invites listeners to spend time analyzing themselves, suggesting that they “take the time now and find your mind.” Stone Cold Fox presents Memory Palace as a peaceful place to calmly reassess one’s goals in life.
While the storytelling is impressive, variety is arguably the band’s greatest strength.
Stone Cold Fox ruminates on optimism (“Sold”), identity (“Graduation”), and loneliness (“Spider and the Fly”). But “Adaptation,” a melancholy love song, is Memory Palace’s hidden gem, taking a critical look at the pitfalls of the modern relationship and how one can endure them. Stone Cold Fox emphasizes the desperation of the line, “All I need is a day without goodbyes” by slowing down to a dramatic half-time rhythm.
Rhythm is a driving force for many Memory Palace songs, making the band’s rhythm section a crucial part of the record. This importance is most apparent on “Reprise,” an instrumental featuring bassist Justin Bright and keyboardist Ariel Loh. Afterward, “Spider and the Fly” paints a dreary picture of a man contemplating loneliness before building to the slow, instrumental march that ends Memory Palace with a satisfying sense of closure.
While much of the musical world is governed by singles, Stone Cold Fox shows that an audience can still be grasped for a full 40 minutes. Memory Palace is an uplifting reminder of how rewarding the full album experience can be if we can simply find the time. If we do, the album may take us to a place like Memory Palace, where we can finally find our minds.
Stone Cold Fox – Memory Palace tracklist:
- “Time’s Up”
- “Darling Darling”
- “Memory Palace”
- “Spider and the Fly”