Since bursting onto the scene with their acclaimed debut album Black Holes, The Blue Stones have delivered a crowd-thrilling live show that defies the laws of physics, generating an impossibly massive sound from its two members alone. On their third album Pretty Monster, the duo fully capture the controlled chaos and combustible energy of their live set for the very first time—all while expanding on the potent songwriting and sonic ingenuity shown on Black Holes (a 2018 release that earned them a JUNO Award nomination for ‘Breakthrough Group of the Year’) and its 2021 follow-up Hidden Gems (a JUNO nominee for ‘Rock Album of the Year’). Despite the colossal growth they’ve experienced since getting their start playing dive bars in their small hometown, The Blue Stones instill every track with equal parts unchecked passion and a joyfully adventurous spirit.
Mainly produced by multi-GRAMMY Award-winner Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, The Strokes, Spoon), Pretty Monster came to life over 35 consecutive days of recording at an off-the-grid studio in Kingston, Ontario. During that time, lead vocalist/guitarist Tarek Jafar and drummer/backing vocalist Justin Tessier worked tirelessly in preserving the raw vitality of the album’s demos while embedding each song with so many unexpected details (gritty beats, restless grooves, elegantly frenetic textures). A striking departure from the more atmospheric sound of Hidden Gems (a widely lauded effort that spawned three Top 5 radio hits in Canada), the result is a triumphant body of work that merges the hard-hitting dynamics of rock-and-roll with the indelibly catchy hooks of pop.
A wildly anthemic track built on kinetic rhythms and a commanding vocal performance from Jafar, Pretty Monster’s exhilarating lead single “Don’t Miss” reveals the unbridled creativity The Blue Stones brought to the album-making process. To that end, Jafar sketched the song during a session with writer/producer Kevin “Boonn” Hissink (grandson, Mike Shinoda), after spontaneously composing an explosive riff on Hissink’s baritone guitar. “The riff was so punchy, it inspired me to write this song about completely owning your confidence—sort of like, ‘The hype is quite real, and here’s your soundtrack to prove that,’” says Jafar. Another heady shot of fortitude, “Cards Are Down” unfolds in blistering guitar tones and fuzzed-out grooves as The Blue Stones speak to the pure power in “putting everything you’ve got on the line toward whatever you want most in life,” as Jafar puts it.
On “Good Ideas,” The Blue Stones shift into a more introspective mindset, channeling a brooding urgency with the track’s hip-hop-leaning beats (an element crafted with the help of WZRD BLD, who also produced “Cards Are Down” and has previously worked with artists like Illenium and Highly Suspect). “It’s about feeling like you don’t know what to say, what to write, what to create anymore,” says Jafar. “I wrote it during lockdown when I was feeling so stuck, but then the song itself ended up proving me wrong by becoming something I’m really proud of.” Meanwhile, on “What’s It Take To Be Happy?”, The Blue Stones present a soulful meditation on the often-frustrating search for fulfillment, brilliantly twisting the mood with the song’s bright guitar work and sing-along-ready gang vocals. “That one came from trying to write a song from major chords instead of the bluesy minor chords we use a lot of the time,” Jafar recalls. “I thought it would be fun if the lyrics contrasted the happy feeling of the music, so it turned into a song about how the search for happiness can sometimes feel endless.”
The most heavy-hearted moment on Pretty Monster, “Camera Roll” reflects on a particularly brutal form of post-breakup nostalgia. “Letting go of a relationship is always so difficult, especially when your phone is full of hundreds of photos of the person you’re trying to move on from,” says Jafar, who wrote the hauntingly delicate track on piano. “Getting to the point of hitting delete and finding some closure is really tough, but hopefully this song will give people the strength to find closure for themselves.” Elsewhere on Pretty Monster, The Blue Stones push into such previously uncharted sonic terrain as the stoner-rock intensity of “Stay With Me.” “There’s usually more of a swagger to the beat in our songs, but that one’s this straight-ahead, driving, four-on-the-floor rock song,” notes Tessier.
For The Blue Stones, there’s an undeniable sense of both purpose and pleasure in boldly following their creative impulses. “Our approach has always been to make the music we want to hear,” says Tessier. “Every song we create is something we wanted to see in the world, and hopefully if that goes far enough, it’ll help move things forward for the whole genre.” And by staying true to their instincts, the duo ultimately hope to make a profoundly positive impact on their audience as well. “We want our music to be cathartic, but we also want it to motivate and uplift people and make them feel more confident,” says Jafar. “And when they come to our live show, we want everyone to feel absolutely energized by the time they leave, like they’re ready to take on the world.”
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