Music Reviews

Stef Chura Midnight

(Saddle Creek) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

In Midnight, Stef Chura tries to make the best out of every situation. The Detriot, Michigan singer-songwriter uses her reactive emotions with humor and acerbity on her second full-length album, using potent guitar riffs to counterpoint her sharp-witted subtext. It's a way to shrug off the problems that drag her down, an approach she's been refining since 2017's aptly-titled debut Messes.

Right from the outset, the tuneful yet briskly All I Do is Lie captures Chura at her most open and exposed. She pushes her yelpy voice to the forefront, fortifying her defenses against someone who doesn't seem to know what he wants. All I Do is Lie, just like the winding Degrees, find her experimenting with prickly guitar textures, allowing her multi-part arrangements to come together into vigorous, yet precise outros.

Chura adeptly balances the album's more composed moments with raw, unhinged squalls of distortion—Method Man practically jumps at you with a hostile stance, where she learns to not put up with a so-called friend who needs to inflate his intelligence while undermining hers anymore. Whereas in Trumbull, she injects some surrealism into an otherwise plinky, straightforward piano lead. The soft-loud-soft dynamics she shuffles throughout provide a welcome songwriting variety, even if the softer side she tries to reason with doesn't convey as much excitement.

Having enlisted her local colleague Fred Thomas to handle production duties for Messes, Chura decided to once again bring along another musician on board who would understand how to enhance the direction she wanted to take. This time it's Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest, a likeminded indie rocker who also writes memorable hooks with a ramshackle charm. His influence is littered throughout the entire production—from the start-stop power-pop dynamics of Scream to the clean, chugging chords of Sweet Sweet Midnight, the similarities are uncanny. Just like Toledo, she understands how applying different chords changes can alter the essence of a song.

Chura likes to develop her albums with collaborative energy. Nevertheless, the rousing angst—both thoughtful and forceful—she expresses in Midnight is hers and hers alone. Contrary to the quiet melancholy of some of her peers (think Hand Habits or Palehound), Chura likes to model her toughened exterior with taut loud declarations. "'Cause I'm fucked up and I'm ready, oh," she warbles on "Sincerely Yours," mustering her mixed feelings with self-deprecation and confidence. It's a sentiment that perfectly summarizes her outlook on herself and others, telling us that it's okay to be flawed. But for the love of God, have some common sense.