Fans of Tim Easton who aren’t yet familiar with his side project Easton Stagger Phillips will want to catch up quickly. The trio’s second album Resolution Road is a fantastic collection of songs that will undoubtedly appeal to country, folk, pop and rock ears alike.
Easton Stagger Phillips is made up of Easton, Leeroy Stagger and Evan Phillips. Stagger and Phillips hail from Alaska, and when the three of them decided to set up camp in a remote cabin up North to record their first record, it was impossible not record together again. All three have unique solo qualities that blend together so effortlessly that you’re almost amazed that they haven’t just always been a band. Their sound is so smooth and cohesive and their hooks are so clean and clear, with harmonies that will break your heart like a Big Star song.
“Always Come Back to You” is one such tune and sounds like it could have come from another era. The layering of their vocal harmonies is brilliant, and lends a complex quality to a pretty simple love song. This is one of the more pop-focused songs, but the record truly does cross a wide array of genre platforms. “Baby Come Home” is smoky and full of a longing sense of loneliness, with an unexpected hint of organ that adds just the right amount of soul.
The best thing about this record is the sheer timelessness of the songs. Lyrics about growing up and getting your heart broken are poignant and full of truth. “Begin” is a great example of this, telling a tale of nonconformity that holds true for every generation with the resounding message, “Don’t lose yourself in the end.” “Lucillia” is another song that transcends time and offers an unforgettable chorus and melody that’s bound to get stuck in your head and trick you into thinking it’s a song you’ve known forever. There’s an overall warm familiarity about this album that’s hard to come by and harder to fake.
The more country and blues side shows the Nashville accent (Easton, specifically) on “Highway is My Home”, a classic road song with rockabilly guitar notes. And “Traveler” and “Stay” are Tom Petty-esque rockers with some of the best harmonies on the whole record
The combined songwriting skills in this super-group make them a powerhouse, but their music is so down to earth that it doesn’t intimidate; rather, it warms to your ears immediately. Easton Stagger Phillips seems to fill a hole you might not have known was there, with their carefully crafted instrumentals and guitar riffs. Resolution Road is a mighty fine continuation of this well-rounded band that sounds like they’ve been playing together forever. “How Can You Be So Much in Tune” is the literal embodiment of this and the irony of it does not go unnoticed.
For a true standout gem of a song, check out the thoughtful and ravishing “Life of Crime”, a song that gives you the perfect taste of what you’re in for with ESP.