Sterling Witt – Satyagraha
Sterling Witt’s fifth full length release Satyagraha represents a new high water mark in this Kansas City based songwriter and guitarist’s career. He has worked consistently over the last decade plus establishing a much deserved reputation as one of the most creative and energetic performers on the indie scene today. It is a bit of a misnomer, however, to lump Witt in with indie musicians. His latest eleven song release is recorded and mixed by renowned production legend Steve Albini and he elevates the level of quality even further by investing the music with a rawboned intimacy and physicality that’s impossible to ignore. The collection is united by lyrics exploring common themes – the album’s title is taken from a term first coined by Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi referring to “truth force” and many of the songs on this album concern themselves with how we identify what is true in this life, what effect it has on our lives, and who do we believe? Witt engages these ideas with biting intelligence and lyrics that are pointed, yet quite accessible.
“Perception Deception” and “Love Me To Death” lyrically depict a certain fatalism about modern life and the negative effects it has on people, but they are jaggedly melodic and musically upbeat. Placing his lyrical messages in musical landscapes like this makes the often weighty ideas the songs push all the more accessible to the average listeners. Frankly, the majority of people who buy Sterling Witt’s latest album are likely to fall into the category of hardcore music fans, but there’s plenty of daylight on this collection for attracting more casual fans and that daylight is provided courtesy of Witt’s guitar. Melodies seem to pour out of him and even presented through a distorted, effects-skewed prism, the songs on Satyagraha have an effortless lift.
“Who Do You Listen To?” is, inarguably, the strongest moment of social commentary on the album, but Witt does turn his gaze back to such subjects later on. His musical skills get a good workout here thanks to some challenging time signatures and his willingness to blend those off-kilter tempos with much straighter meters. “Let Love Out” opens with surprising delicacy before it shoots onto a much faster rail and thunders away with the same mix of melody and power defining the release as a whole. He opens “Make It” sketching out the melody on his guitar with partially muffled and well-recorded pick strikes before the tune takes a turn into the album’s best example yet of a simmering explosion. Naturally, when the tune does explode, it provides one of the album’s most memorable moments.
“I Love You More Everyday” is, lyrically, about more than it directly lets on, so giving this track a few plays or more to let it soak in is advisable. It is far and away the best pure power pop rock track on the entire album and has an ample amount of humor to match its intelligence. Inspiration pours off every album track and Witt, his guitar and vocals at the center of everything, has scored a resounding hit with his fifth studio album.
9 out of 10 stars