Weaving some legendary bands’ influences with their own unique twist, Steady Owl, fronted by Roy Shrum and featuring longtime friends Jon Wiest on drums and Jeremy Cullum on keys, has cooked up one of the best albums I have listened to this year within the realms of indie and alternative rock. “They Are All Bastards Except Us” is packed with charismatic and beautifully striking sets of tonality that let you really soak in the vibrancy and style that it all gives off. This is a really fun and addicting form of rock music because it doesn’t stick to the standard cookie-cutter rock arrangements and songwriting styles, contributing to its broad-based appeal.
I personally appreciate the squeaky, clean singing because I can relate to the lyrics and also the subtly tongue-in-cheek tracks like “Why California” that make everything much more enjoyable. They pack quite the punch as they take a listener on another dimension altogether; you get the truthfulness and authenticity of songs that are about life experiences like “Of A Boy and His Gun” or emotionally driven situations like “Is It Too Late” and you still get that light-hearted or whimsical effect as well. And that combination is the whole vibe of “They Are All Bastards Except Us”.
If there was a particular word that I would say this album has an abundance of, the word would be character! “Why California” unfurls with some seriously tasty guitar playing; this is a masterpiece brimming with such virtuosic guitar technique and awe-inspiring showmanship. The singing is immaculate, and the tongue-in-cheek tone earns this tune that immediate likeability. As aforementioned, the sheer level of technical dexterity on display is super amazing, especially with the impeccable guitar picking. Overall, the tune is melodic and features an inescapable root feel that hits the listener right in the nostalgia!
“Moondog” is another bona fide standout that starts slowly, but once those swooping riffs enter, the mood changes completely. The lead vocals are actually mellow, with a restrained yet expressive, emotional, and soulful tone. I love the instrumental interplay here; it adds such depth and complexity to the composition, making it a truly immersive experience.
“Best Days” features a deeply haunting cinematic background with some punchy drums and candid guitar play, and as the track progresses, Steady Owl unleashes a timeless medley of rollicking riffs, pounding drums, and self-assertive, emotion-drenched vocals before returning to a mellow, stripped-back, guitar-flavored climax. This is the kind of track that really works well with a live crowd, thanks to the heart-pumping energy and the big chorus at its heart. The track is actually 6 minutes long, and it doesn’t feel like it…that’s how you know it’s golden!
“Stop” is another track that is vibrantly alive and breathes uniqueness, gracefully balancing its moments of majestic grandeur and delicate introspection. It hits you with the soul-stirring vocals and zipping tones, and for some reason, it just won’t “Stop” playing in your head! When it’s over, you have to sort of shake it off and come back to your own reality again, which is one of my favorite parts because it’s almost like you’ve just read a chapter of a really intriguing book, and you may now take yourself out of the page and look around the room again. I also love songs that let you escape, and this track has such a unique atmosphere and aesthetic to it that as soon as it’s over, you actually want to play it again!
And can you believe that these are only four tracks out of a total of nine? I am a bit old-school myself, so I like to leave a little room for imagination, and seeing that your interest is sparked, how about you go the extra length and enjoy the thrill?
“They Are All Bastards Except Us” is truly an impressive and outstanding album that you, like everyone else, deserve to listen to.