Artist – Mery Steel
Album/Label – Dreams / Unsigned
Rating – 8.5 / 10
As 2020 dawned, the new year brought with it hopes, dreams and big plans for the members of Columbus’ Mery Steel. Their music is self-described as “Haute/bas weird-adjacent moody Ohio twang pop.” If you find yourself wondering what that means, you are not alone.
Having had founding member and vocalist Ryan Stolte-Sawa join me as a guest on The Cat Club Podcast (December 2019), I’ve been looking forward to new music from the quartet since Ryan’s appearance on the show.
The band is comprised of Stolte-Sawa, Max Platitsyn, Milo Petruziello and Henry Allen, with plans for festivals, tours and recording their first full-length studio record in the works. Then, the COVID-19 global pandemic hit, with a shelter-in-place, stay-at-home order put into effect in mid-March. At that point, Stolte-Sawa said “all those plans turned back into pumpkins.”
The three songs that make up the band’s Dreams EP were the last songs finished after the lockdown was put in place and were recorded in the band members’ separate home studios during that time. After they were satisfied with the tracks they laid down, they sent the guitars off to engineer Tony Rice for re-amping, before handing it all off to producer Glenn Davis to mix and master.
“In its own way,” said Stolte-Sawa, “each song grapples with the tensions we experience as our dreams come head-to-head with reality.”
Dreams may only contain three tracks; but what powerful songs they are. The EP kicks off with Apologize Already, a melancholy-tinged number that is reminiscent of singer-songwriter Crystal Gayle throughout. Laced with a comfortable Americana infusion, the pedal steel compliments Stolte-Sawa’s vocals as she laments that she never heard a former lover say the words “I’m sorry.”
The title track picks up the pace slightly, conjuring thoughts of wallowing in a summer field while imploring a lover to stay within the confines of one’s dreams. Her storytelling is on-point in this tune, keeping the sorrow at bay without diminishing the image of a state of peace and closure.
With just a guitar accompanying her vocals to begin This Is How We Live, she sets a tone of pensive reflection. “The dreams in our hearts / They’re the blood that moves us / Think we’re gaining on them / But it’s they that pursue us,” Stolte-Sawa croons, before the rest of the band joins in, adding just enough resonance to keep one guessing at whether you should be happy or sad upon listening to this undulating sonic journey.
There is a sense of cathartic rumination that weaves its path through all three tracks of Dreams, while setting no agenda for the listener. The songs are as personal as they are real, never sugar-coating the intense passion of her experiences, all while leading to a feeling of closure.
These songs compliment the vexing angst of present-day America succinctly, but in a fashion that is easily accessible across a wide spectrum of emotions. Mery Steel managed to say a lot in just three short songs, making Dreams a must-have for your musical collection.
- Apologize Already
- This Is How We Live
Mery Steel – This Is How We Live