Philadelphia folk-rock band Stella Ruze will debut a warm, energizing full-length record with the release of The Greater Dog on Friday, January 17. The band itself is large, featuring seven members, and the ten tracks on The Greater Dog often exhibit unique combinations of tones and textures. Still, the band maintains a commitment to a classic folk-rock sound.
The band’s addition of a permanent rhythm section and saxophone player complete its lineup, and all seven musicians work cohesively to make music that feels fresh and warm while also innovative. The new sound is a little more intricate and intense than the band’s previously acoustic folk music.
“Our new sound emboldens our message to fans,” says lead singer Brendan Johnson. “The common theme of The Greater Dog is the search for love and purpose in pursuit of life’s many adventures. This message is a metaphor for the band itself, a group of working adults who resolve to devote their free time and resources to the pursuit of something we all love. Through this record, we are encouraging our listeners to do the same.”
Still, though Stella Ruze’s new music feels funky and unique, the band maintains accessibility by sticking with classic folk-rock undertones. “Open,” for example, serves as a listener’s first introduction to the record: a bright, upbeat track with charming vocal harmonies and a rich layer of horns and piano to add an Americana twist. “Open” is a fun song, and its energizing nature pushes listeners forward into the rest of the album.
And The Greater Dog does continue in a similar manner; tracks like “The Greater Dog,” the title song, feature high-energy piano riffs and sweet, love-soaked lyrics packaged in the same neat vocal harmonies (“I’ll get us to the moon/We’ll sit upon it and look down/We’ll never get enough/The greater dog”). Even when the album slows with songs like “Hustle The Load,” a deep piano ballad, and “Kitchen,” a sweet and sultry love song with a quirky narrative (“We were cooking/In your kitchen/…/Showing me/All of your dishes”), the music maintains a similar energy and zest.
The only track that feels lackluster is “Calling,” and even then, the lack of enthusiasm is intentional: “Calling” is a heartbroken, melancholy song featuring primarily only the masculine vocals and an acoustic guitar strumming, and it imbues listeners with a feeling of loneliness and desolation. The track serves as a nice contrast to the rest of the record, and it’s followed by “Long Underwear,” another upbeat, folky song that ends the album with driving percussion and deft piano melodies.
The Greater Dog is available for preorder now on Stella Ruze’s Bandcamp page. Fans in the Philadelphia area may also attend the band’s album release celebration on Saturday, January 18 at Boot & Saddle. In the meantime, listen to the album’s first three singles and preorder the full record below.