In Stopped Wishing I Was Somewhere Else, The Little Stevies have produced their best album yet. It’s an amazing album, full of honesty, beauty and introspection. But no thing is perfect.
It’s been a while since we heard anything from The Little Stevies, the delightful Melbourne-based sister duo of a band. But they haven’t been slacking off. Since their last album Diamonds For Your Tea, they have released two children’s albums under the name Teeny Tiny Stevies, both of which have been quite successful. The second was even nominated for an ARIA, so that’s a big deal. I have the first of the two, Useful Songs For Little People, because I crowdfunded it but I got sick of it pretty quickly as it’s really aimed at very young children and (unlike The Wiggles) holds no nostalgia for me.
Stopped Wishing I Was Somewhere Else is their newest album, and was officially released on the 28th of February. However it had reportedly been available up to 4 months earlier from the band directly at live shows. I pre-ordered it as part of a bundle with some other rare, very early Little Stevies releases (although I actually already owned 2 copies of the EP Grow Up, so now I have 3). They arrived a bit early, but as you can tell from the lateness of this review, it took me some time to get to it.
As with my other album reviews, I’ve listed previous Little Stevies songs each track reminds me of (with the album they come from), a rank for each track on this album, as well as a few comments about each track. Plus there’s an overview of the album as a whole at the bottom.
1. Break My Heart
Reminds me of: Boy, You’re A Nuisance [Diamonds For Your Tea], Thunder [Diamonds For Your Tea], Dink You [Love Your Band]
Rank on this album: 5
The album opens with Break My Heart: a track full of sweeping vocals, accompanied minimally by acoustic guitar and piano. The title lyrics, “break my heart”, are uncharacteristically used to refer to an overwhelming yet positive emotion, here connected to the powerful love for a (unborn) child. The vocals, combined with these lyrics pack an emotive punch.
2. The Truth
Reminds me of: People Need People [Love Your Band], Strong and Brave [Grow Up]
Rank on this album: 7
The Truth sounds like kids music for adults. With a plain and simple message, it wouldn’t be out of place on a Teeny Tiny Stevies album. The lyrics talk about standing tall, doing the right thing, telling the truth, and being persistent through pain.
3. Rest of My Days
Reminds me of: Sister [Attention Shoppers], Ticket To Where You Are [Love Your Band], Heavy Words [Diamonds For Your Tea]
Rank on this album: 10
Rest of My Days is one of the most emotive tracks of the album. It is characterised by picked guitar which keeps in lockstep with sublime vocals from Beth. You know the song is about to elevate when you hear the “aaahs” kick in. The lyrics could apply to many things, from children to a partner (or maybe a sister…), to God to some job or life ambition.
4. Caught Your Lie
Reminds me of: No Button [Attention Shoppers], Leap Of Faith [Attention Shoppers]
Rank on this album: 11
Byll recently claimed at a live show that Caught Your Lie is about her long-held fear of dying, but she and Beth have previously said that the song is about growing up and how it doesn’t turn out as you expect. Personally, I think the lyrics apply better to the latter. The first verse’s lyrics always make me chuckle. The percussion through the verses has an enchanting, found-objects quality to it.
Reminds me of: Amigo [Diamonds For Your Tea], No Button [Attention Shoppers], Feel It [Attention Shoppers], Peggy Suicide [Love Your Band]
Rank on this album: 3
Jesse is a catchy character study, with lyrics that are actually much sadder than the tone of the music would have you believe. The chorus is pleading with the titular character to change for their own good. This one is another track that got stuck in my head partly because its lyrics really spoke to me.
Reminds me of: Want You To Feel [Grow Up], Heavy Words [Diamonds For Your Tea]
Rank on this album: 4
Smile is the most aggressive, grungy Little Stevies song in a long time, and I love it! The lyrics are a singeing retort to some omitted comment, assumably along the lines of “Why don’t you smile more, girly?” In fact, it rather reminds me of another song in the same vein: Girly Bits by Ali Barter, except this is more of a direct reply to behaviour that song mocks. With its bombastic guitars and slow-and-steady rock drums, it doesn’t feel like a Little Stevies song. And yet it’s still delivered with some characteristic angelic backing vocals.
7. Without Me Asking
Reminds me of: Oh Honey [Diamonds For Your Tea], Come To Miss You [Love Your Band]
Rank on this album: 13
Without Me Asking is propelled by a rhythmic, intriguing drum line which makes engaging use of brushes. The lyrics paint a picture of a relationship at tension: emotions are not being freely expressed, and the protagonist doesn’t want to expose herself by being the first to admit her emotions. The song concludes with a cool walking bass line.
8. Keep On Walking
Reminds me of: Leave It With Me [Attention Shoppers], Canadia (Take Me) [Diamonds For Your Tea], Somewhere We’ve Just Been [Love Your Band]
Rank on this album: 12
Beth has said Keep On Walking is inspired by the music of Colin Hay. It is a subdued, folksy ballad, and its lyrics are the source of the album’s title.
9. You and Your Face
Reminds me of: I Hold My Breath [Diamonds For Your Tea], Strong and Brave [Grow Up], Making My Sweetheart Smile [Love Your Band]
Rank on this album: 6
You and Your Face is an ode marvelling at the bravery and daring of children in comparison to the anxiety and regret of their middle-aged parents. This song probably has the most repetitive lyrics of the album, driven home by a clapping-like percussion present throughout.
Reminds me of: Almighty Friend [Love Your Band], Amigo [Diamonds For Your Tea], Sister [Attention Shoppers], Because I Have You All [Attention Shoppers]
Rank on this album: 8
Co-Star is another in The Little Stevies’ collection of odes to friendship. This sentiment is perfectly expressed through a mixture of playful guitar riffs, backed by a gruffer electric later on.
11. Years I Didn’t Appreciate
Reminds me of: I Hold My Breath [Diamonds For Your Tea], Easily Swayed [Diamonds For Your Tea]
Rank on this album: 1
Years I Didn’t Appreciate is another track about aging and growing up: this time from the perspective of looking back at your past and trying to make the most of the day, given you’ve already lost so many. This was one of the first songs from this album to get stuck in my head; the chorus is catchy, with a groovy rhythm. The instrumentation builds in power after each chorus, dying away again during the verses.
12. Try Not to Stuff It Up
Reminds me of: Thunder [Diamonds For Your Tea], Boy, You’re A Nuisance [Diamonds For Your Tea], Accidentally [Attention Shoppers]
Rank on this album: 2
Of all the tracks on this album, Try Not to Stuff It Up is the most transparently about parenting. Byll has described it as “honestly my description of how I find parenting”, and it is a very honest insight into the thoughts and struggles of being a parent. Some of the phrases are a bit wordy, but fun all the same. The chorus is punchy and catchy. The backing guitar riff between verses has some interesting distortion that makes it indescribable. The song ends, maybe quite appropriately, on a chord that feels quite unresolved.
Reminds me of: Dear Daniel [Grow Up], Almighty Friend [Love Your Band]
Rank on this album: 9
Lucy is an enigma of a song, seemingly on purpose. The lyrics tell the story of an adventurous girl embarking into the world. Musically, it’s an interesting mix of acoustic guitar and electric organ. When the chorus kicks in, the whole thing takes on a feeling reminiscent of a bossa nova, punctuated by a double clap after each line.
As you listen through Stopped Wishing I Was Somewhere Else a few times, a number of themes emerge. Some are classic Little Stevies themes like travel (Keep On Walking), growing up (Years I Didn’t Appreciate, Caught Your Lie), and friendship (Co-Star, Rest of my Days). But the most striking theme is new: parenthood. To be fair, Diamonds For Your Tea also had a few tracks about parenting, but it feels so much more dominant here. It’s not a big surprise given that both of The Little Stevies (Sibylla & Bethany Stephen) are parents now. That said, their approach to the topic is sincere, rooted in their own experiences, giving an honest insight into the head space and world of a new(-ish) mother. The only downside is once it gets in your mind, you can start to read every track as having some parental angle. Or maybe that’s just me.
In some ways, Stopped Wishing I Was Somewhere Else reminds me of Clare Bowditch‘s The Winter I Chose Happiness. For one, they both have pretty wordy titles, but I think SWIWSE is worse in this regard. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a good line, especially as a lyric, but I don’t like it as a title, probably because it’s a verb phrase which sounds weird. Putting that aside, both albums explore similar overarching themes. While TWICH has a laser focus on happiness and making the most of your situation, SWIWSE hits the same mark more incidentally through the combination of all its tracks. Both are mature offerings, full of considered, soul-searching reflection and meaningful takeaways for their audience, without coming off as too brooding or prescriptive.
This release sticks mostly to a more acoustic setup with acoustic guitar, and supporting piano, with strong yet dainty vocals. I would have loved to have heard some more varied instruments, like trumpets or violins, but The Little Stevies work magic with this simpler set-up.
When I first listened to SWIWSE in full, I didn’t enjoy it that much. Something made me wish for the “good old days” of The Little Stevies (read: Attention Shoppers era) in the same way I had when I first heard their last album, Diamonds For Your Tea. But within about a week, I felt the total opposite. I loved this new album, and Diamonds For Your Tea to boot! What changed my mind? I saw The Little Stevies play live.
Something about seeing the songs performed in front of me made me suddenly connect with all of them: the new and old songs alike. Initially I wasn’t sure what did it: if they sounded better live, or if it was seeing the emotions on their faces as the sisters sung, or if it was simply repetition. Eventually I concluded it was a bit of all of those things, but the main factor was the insight gained from hearing the stories behind a song. By understanding the lyrics and the context, I was able to connect with them more directly, and once I did it seemed to unlock an emotional connection for me.
That’s the strength of The Little Stevies music, especially on this album. For me, I had to see it live and hear the banter and back-stories to get it, but maybe you don’t. Either way, I can highly recommend seeing them live as well as listening to this album.
RATING: 9/10 – ★★★★★★★★★☆
But you don’t have to take my word for it… Listen to the album for yourself, and make up your own mind. Then you can let me know what you think of The Little Stevies’s Stopped Wishing I Was Somewhere Else.
So, have you ever heard of The Little Stevies? What’s your favourite of their songs? Have you heard any of the Teeny Tiny Stevies music? What do you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here in the comments below.
To Infinity and Beyond,