Last week, Athens, Greece singer-songwriter Σtella released her self-titled, debut album on Inner Ear Records. The album became a “must listen” one after the lead single, “Picking Words”, was released earlier this year. The disco-pop song was stunning with its steady build leading to the catchy and upbeat climax. You may have heard the track before, as it was included on the Weekend Showcase for January 9.
Born Stella Chronopoulou, the singer-songwriter perfected her craft while attending the Athens School of Fine Arts and collaborating with noted Greek artists such as Expert Medicine, Sillyboy, My Wet Calvin, Coti K, NTEiBINT and Sad Disco. In addition, she founded two bands: Fever Kids with Alexis and CHEST with Babis Theocharis. It is her solo work, however, where she has found her musical approach and where her true talents shine.
Back in 2012, she released her first solo EP, Keep Me Naked, which caught the attention of the aforementioned Greek bands as well as Inner Ear Records, who signed Σtella in the summer of 2013. After dabbling in other projects, she dedicated that latter part of 2014 to finish recording her debut LP. The ten singles on Σtella build on the lead track “Picking Words”, songs that are steeped within the tradition of the music of the late 70s and early 80s, namely pop, disco, and new wave. It’s filled with keys, synthesizer, cool bass lines, and catchy guitar riffs of that era by the likes of New Order and The Eurythmics. But to simply call this album a “retro” one would not be entirely accurate, as Σtella has added her own personal touches.
On “Made to Attack”, there’s a definite disco-pop vibe to it, but there are also modern synth-pop textures included, similar to what Bear in Heaven has done with their work. In addition, there’s a hint of the St. Vincent with the ability to sudden transform a track from its original leanings and make them more euphoric and eye-popping, which is what Σtella has achieved on “Made to Attack”.
Another band that comes to mind is Young Galaxy. Like the Montreal-based synth-pop quintet, who have marveled critics for a decade, Σtella creates music that is catchy and encourages you to dance without over relying on special effects and electronic blips and beeps. In addition, both Σtella and Young Galaxy are storytellers, using the music as a medium to share an experience and not just a feeling. “The Map”, for instance, is a groovy 80s pop tune that tells the story of getting to know an unexpected stranger. “Detox” is a mellow pop-tune that is graceful and stirring, perfectly fitting the song’s theme of unrequited love.
There are buzzier, catchier numbers. The disco-pop songs, “Repeat” and “Last Minute Boy” are enjoyable, body-swaying tracks to be heard outside on the deck or next to a fire with friends. It’s music probably made with the sublime beaches of Greece in mind. On these songs, there are hints of Diana Ross, Gloria Gaynor, and Shannon.
With her debut album, Σtella has crafted ten songs that are familiar yet rich and diverse. The entire album is a refreshing take of disco and pop music, reminding us that music can be fun yet meaningful, euphoric yet contemplative. It’s a very good first album that should only lead to great things in the future for the young artist. It would not be a surprise if ten years from now she’s referred to as not just Greece’s dancing queen but its Madonna.
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