We first heard from Stella West in March upon the release of her single “Teddy (No Lover of Mine).” That track introduced us to a talented singer from the UK with both a passion and skill for Ennio Morricone-style Spaghetti Western music. With her haunting voice, reverb-soaked guitar and darkly poetic writing style, Stella’s music has a timeless feel. She writes the kind of songs about which Quentin Tarantino makes movies.
It turns out “Teddy” was just the precursor for an entire concept album. Stella has taken her cinematic influences and dramatic sound to their logical conclusion and delivered an epic tale of her own. “Little Black Book With My Poems In” is the debut album from Stella West, released worldwide to all major streaming services on July 10, 2021. The 14-track collection tells the tale of a woman scorned and her vengeful fury.
Although the specifics of the plot remain a mystery throughout, knowledge of them could hardly affect the emotional impact of the record. Details are irrelevant in a tale so driven by feeling. Love, hate, revenge and regret are the plot points. Other minutiae are there for color, but the meat of the story is raw emotion.
We know there is a woman, she has been wronged and is now seeking revenge. We’re not sure why she is angry. We don’t know who she blames, though a betting man would say four of them are named Teddy, Glen, Jack and Jim. The protagonist of our story ends one foe after another though she never seems to find solace or closure. From her description of the “awful sound” of murderous gunfire in the Leonard Cohen-esque “Three Wise Men (I Shot You Down)” to her sorrowful and apologetic prayer “For I Am Still The Tree,” our heroine struggles with the weight of her actions.
Musically The album lives on the prairie of America’s Wild West. Sparse arrangements of guitar, bass, piano and occasional drums create the perfect scene for each track, whether set by a campfire or in a saloon. Within that framework Stella West takes some interesting and fun chances. For instance, she explores abstract Post-Rock experiments on songs like “The Sun Will Rise,” “Mirage” and “Penny’s Boat.”
“Ode to the Devil” takes a cool stylistic turn into avant-garde Jazz, from the song’s quirky Monk-style intro to the Lo-fi Jazz and Indie Rock fusion later on. On “Pictures in the Sky” the singer’s woeful tale and wistful tone recall “She Hangs Brightly”-era Mazzy Star. Throughout the album Stella West is as adventurous with her voice as she is in her production. She flows smoothly from murderous cowgirl to Billie Holiday Jazz and on to dramatic 60’s-style Dark Pop ballads like “Sparrow Avenue.”
In the end, Stella West’s music sounds less like a “who” and more like a “when.” And the answer lies somewhere between 1869 and 2021. Ultimately, despite the decidedly 19-century vibe of the compositions, there is a darkness here that feels very much of the present. Just a few decades ago a story like this may come off campy. But in 2021, there is nothing lighthearted about a woman singing “I’ve been battered. I’ve been struck down.” Again, the details are unimportant. That emotion is all we need to know.
Check out “Little Black Book With My Poems In” in its entirety below. You can also hear the song “My Trusty Gun” on the Deep Indie Songwriters playlist. Follow the links below the video to connect with Stella West. Get on her socials and stay in the loop on all of the current and future projects from this deeply talented new voice.