Considering that prior to emerging as a solo artist in 2012 Stephen Chopek was a veteran touring and studio drummer for the diverse likes of Charlie Hunter, John Mayer, Jesse Malin and Norah Jones, it’s not surprising that his latest collection as an artist, the epic and explosive EP Dweller, is top heavy with boom, propulsion and eminent punchy grooves.
Having developed his intense and infectious style as a singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist over the past decade, it’s also not wholly unexpected to hear all that jangling jamming, cool, crunch-fuzz guitar licks, his emotionally powerful lead vocals and transcendent vocal harmonies.
The real eye opener here is that in less than 19 minutes, Chopek showcases his keen and incisive storytelling abilities like never before – all while providing us another musical silver lining to the pandemic lockdown of 2020. In a much calmer mindset after coming back from a tour with former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty, Chopek went on a creative tear and, free from the whirlwind of bill paying commitments which often distracted him from a more robust solo output, he took the time to get everything just right – even after setting up shop after a relocation to Atlanta from his longtime home in Tennessee because his wife took a job there.
Speaking of distractions, Dweller’s first lead single “All Play No Work,” a rough and raw chug-along with an astonishingly infectious hook, offers a joyful spin on the tough realities of what musicians go through when they’re taken out of their normal routine. Though he lets us know in the chorus that “All play and no work means that I’m always having fun. . .leaves nothing more to be done,” he also reveals a restlessness in the day to day “searching for a new satisfaction/Every stone unturns a pleasant distraction.”
Lyrically, Chopek on other tracks mines slightly more conventional relationship territory – albeit with a unique perspective and clever twists, most notably on the playful and danceable “My Fault” and the second single, the propulsive, synth-heavy pop-rocker “Empty Hands,” which tackles the odd timing and missed opportunities that sometimes get in the way before two lovers destined to be together can actually make it happen.
Two other insightful tracks, the moody, mid-tempo “Start Over” and the whimsical rocker “Unspoken Hopes,” can easily be applied both to personal relationships and our collective sense of cautious optimism as we move past the dark year plus of the pandemic.