Christopher Paul Stelling's secret weapon is lulling you into a false sense of security, then taking you out with a suckerpunch. Stelling's Anti- Records debut, Labor Against Waste, begins with a number of soothing tracks, including the imminently radio and soundtrack-friendly "Scarecrow." But just as I wondered whether major record label cash had softened the edges on the guy who I saw stomping, hollering, and playing his guitar upside-down and backwards over his head at the Campfire Music Festival, the album jolts into high-gear with "Horse," an electrifying conversion tale, and "Death of Influence," a jeremiad against our superficial culture.
Stelling's voice -- both in the literal sense and in terms of his songwriting -- is self-assured and wise, but simultaneously vulnerable. In other words, he's the picture of sincerity. This is an album I can (and will) turn to in any season -- I know there will be a new pearl for each listen.
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