There’s something that’s unerringly reassuring about “Come Down,” the initial offering from Stephen Clair’s upcoming album The Small Hours. The video, which boasts a visual focused solely on a platter spinning on a turntable, boasts no pretense. Instead, it simply encourages appreciation of a song so easy and reassuring, it’s a ready respite from these tumultuous times. Given its resilient refrain and carefree pace, it’s also a throwback to a simpler era when radio-ready records were made to be enjoyed.
Clair himself describes it thusly: “Think post-punk, sweet but bristly rock pop, garage …like the Replacements, Big Star, Rubinoos and Chuck Prophet. The harmonies are sweet, the whole rock trio is out front in the mix. The lyric is written in a reveal form; with each consecutive line another word is added, and with each accruing line, the meaning can change. And, just for kicks, it’s an exacting three minutes.”
In other words, it’s a perfect pop record tailor made for Top 40.
Clair’s been exceptionally active of late. His last album, Strange Perfume, was very well received, and given his efforts up until now, he’s is a fine position to secure that big breakout he’s been building towards over the course of eight albums and a career that’s found him in the role of a tireless troubadour. He’s also an unassuming sort, and while he’s remained mostly under the radar, his music reflects an affable persona and a continuing commitment to making music that’s agreeable for the masses, and yet knowing and nuanced all at the same time.
The Small Hours is no exception. Due for release on September 18, it’s an artful yet articulate set of songs that share specific circumstances both large and small, detailing each expressively within a minimalist format. As the lead-off track on the album, “Come Down” provides an apt introduction of what’s to follow, while foretelling the upbeat vibe that dominates the album overall. With Clair on his telecaster and an effusive rhythm section consisting of bassist Daria Grace and drummer Aaron Latos kicking up dust behind him, the trio easily find their groove. Written last year and recorded at the beginning of 2020 during the pre-pandemic period, “Come Down” reminds its listeners that serenity can still be found if the effort is taken to seek it out.
“What you going to do, what you going to say, how you going to make it through another day,” Clair asks, foretelling the big questions we’re all asking ourselves now.
The answers aren’t so easy, but the insistent refrain offers ample encouragement to come down and carry on.
If you dig the tune, consider a purchase from Bandcamp.