Sometimes (pretty often) I miss being able to just listen to music without digging into each song with sharp surgical instruments of criticism. Sometimes I just want to say that yeah, I liked the record, without having to go into any details. Music could be just… good, for no particular reason. Right? Well, I’m past that point at least with the downtempo electronica (I still have my Swedish pop for pure nonobligatory enjoyment), so it won’t be enough to just say “I liked Coba Stella – Now Is The Time, it’s a good record”. I took notice of Coba Stella a while ago, while sifting through Reverbnation’s diverse selection of trip-hop/electronica acts. Something just instantly drew me to their music, it seemed alive and vibrant, there were some intriguing and unexpected elements embedded into the usual vocals+beats+programming formula. I’ve been waiting for the release ever since hoping (almost expecting) to be blown away and torn to pieces by the innovative and powerful sound. That, unfortunately, didn’t happen. Was I disappointed? No, because, see above, it is a damn good record. It’s just somehow all those interesting elements, all that mixture of genres and styles started getting in the way of thoroughly embracing the sound. I am a complex individual when it comes to music, my apologies to whoever is reading this blog (not that I never warned you). I can absolutely love a record that has “nothing special” about it if it doesn’t make it want to skip any tracks on it. Now Is The Time has many absolutely fantastic tracks, but it’s that couple that (speaking in lingo of Project Runway guest judges) “I didn’t get” that, combined with smorgasbord of stylistic elements, corroded the album’s integrity. But screw it, I really want to talk about those great ones, the ones that could (and do) listen over and over again, appreciating them more and more. Now Is The Time has clusters of greatness, pairs and trios of songs that could have made killer EP’s. Filed under different categories in music stores. My favorite is the one that begins with “State Of Passion” – an example of trip-hop brilliance where all the goodies that Coba Stella has to offer – Julie Winn‘s powerful vocals, Mike Scott‘s multi-instrumental skills and thoughtful electronic design by Kahlagh, – come together in a sweet harmony. This is where the band’s ability to blend and merge those stylistic elements shines – it is a trip-hop song, but there’s so much more to it – from quiet piano at the beginning to dub beats to rock-ballad guitar to cleverly gentle turntables. “Black Ink” follows, eerie and intense, with anxious beat, dueling guitars and vocals that rise above the darkness. Another chunk of goodness on Now Is The Time is the beginning, especially “Take The Mic” – a fun bright hip-hop track (bringing to mind the works of Dan the Automator & Co) – one of the few hip-hop numbers on the record (on which I sometimes wouldn’t mind hearing actual rapping – Mr. Lif wasn’t available?). As a whole, Now Is The Time is a very bright, playful and aware album, bold but approachable. Coba Stella definitely has tons of potential and skill that may sometimes be hard to control in order to create a cohesive record. Creating a fun record does not seem to be a problem at all even when they take on social issues with the lyrics (and especial kudos to them for that). Check it out and turn off your inner critic – you will enjoy it a lot more. You can listen to the entire album (and purchase it) on Bandcamp.

R.I.Y.L. Lovage, Anomie Belle, people watching
personal favs: “State Of Passion”, “Take The Mic”, “Black Ink”

★★★½☆ tipkin’s rating

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