It’s been four years since songwriter Liam Sturgess released his first album, Hit the Stage. After an, um, less than favourable review in the Straight, the youngster has returned with a follow up record, Café des Rêves. A testament to his tenacity, it’s a big step forward for the musician.
Yes, the lyrics are both a little preachy—“Feeling empty? Well then, open up your mind” he sings on “The Brightside”—and at times a little inane (the chorus of “Woah!” consists solely of Sturgess repeating “Sing it, woah”), but his voice is pleasant, and the harmonies are tight.
While his first record saw the artist wander all over the musical map—rap, folk, and rock all make an appearance—the musician has settled on an alternative-pop sound, blending piano melodies with ripping guitar solos. Café des Rêves sees Sturgess more comfortable with his vocal range, singing over instrumental arrangements that wouldn’t seem out of place in an off-Broadway musical.
The album is an ambitious project for the artist, not least because it acts as a showcase for his North Van-based startup music studio, Four Destinations. With the same DIY ethic that doubtless led him to pursue his business, the record is entirely produced by Sturgess, and it’s an enthusiastic collection of work.
Sure, the LP stumbles in some areas—the mix-down on piano ballad “A Glimpse of Her Heart”, for instance, buries the vocals—but Café des Rêves sees the 22-year-old successfully pushing towards a more coherent and proficient sound.
Kate Wilson, The Georgia Straight