Whenever a member of a group records a solo album, the question inevitably becomes: will the solo project sound exactly like the group, or will it be something totally different? In the case of singer/songwriter Adam Haworth Stephens' first solo album, We Live on Cliffs, the truth is somewhere in between. Stephens is one-half of the San Francisco-based folk-rock/adult alternative duo Two Gallants, who are known for a melancholic approach that has been influenced by old-timers like Bob Dylan and Neil Young, but is nonetheless quite relevant to the alt-rock and indie rock scenes of the 21st century. We Live on Cliffs, it turns out, is somewhat of a departure from Two Gallants, but not a huge one. For Stephens the solo artist, that Dylan/Young influence remains, and minus Tyson Vogel (Two Gallants' other half), Stephens still operates in the folk-rock/adult alternative realm. Further, the melancholia remains. But despite all that, We Live on Cliffs (which was produced by Joe Chiccarelli, known for his work with everyone from Frank Zappa to the White Stripes) doesn't sound like a Two Gallants album. Two Gallants have a harder, tougher, dirtier edge; as a solo artist, Stephens is poppier and is also more subtle and understated. And while Two Gallants' albums are introspective, We Live on Cliffs is even more introspective. Without a debt, introspection is all over this album; Stephens is as introspective on "Every Day I Fall," "The Cities That You've Burned," and "With Vengeance Come," as he is on "Second Mine" and the Mexican-tinged "Angelina." And thankfully, he has a strong sense of songcraft to go with all that introspection. These are nicely crafted songs, not crafted in the same way that Two Gallants' songs are crafted, but nicely crafted nonetheless. Neither a carbon copy of Two Gallants' work nor a radical change of direction, We Live on Cliffs demonstrates that Stephens has a lot of potential as a solo artist.
We Live on Cliffs Review
by Alex Henderson