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Brandon Stansell – ‘This Must Be The Place’ review

Honest, personal and damn good fun from an artist on the rise.

Brandon Stansell
Credit: Karen Marie Co.

Brandon Stansell, who put out his first EP in 2015, has been an ardent advocate for the queer community and the advancement of LGBTQ artists in Country Music for a number of years now. His music video for “Hometown” was the first LGBTQ-themed video to ever premiere on CMT. In 2017 he released his debut album ‘Slow Down’ before following that up in 2020 when he released ‘Hurt People’ (the title track featuring Cam) – a heartbreaking EP about his own family’s response to his coming out. ‘Hurt People’ was a heartbreaking look at intolerance and prejudice and it only served to elevate Stansell’s standing amongst the Nashville musician’s community. Here we are, post-pandemic, in 2022 with brand new set of songs and a real step forward in Stansell’s evolution, sound and style.

Stansell broke up with his partner in November 2019, just before the pandemic hit so you would think that the combination of heartbreak and isolation would have led him to write a kind of ‘Hurt People’ part II – but you would be wrong! Sure, there are some absolutely heartbreaking songs on ‘This Must Be The Place’ but the overall sound and feel is one of incredibly slick, 80s leaning Country/Pop and it looks good on him.

If it is heartbreak you want then look no further than tracks like ‘The God’s Honest Truth’ and ‘Find You’. The former closes down the album in some style. It’s a love letter to the ten nieces and nephews that Stansell is (mostly) estranged from. A simple but evocative ballad that draws you in to its narrative with a sparse yet impactful melody. ‘Find You’, meanwhile, is an acoustic number with Pop overtones and fantastic chorus made for radio. It’s a very personal, raw look at the search for love and about having regrets over past relationships. Both songs will appeal to fans of Stansell’s ‘Hurt People’ EP and fans of great writing and melody. ‘Did You Settle Down Too Soon?’ is an interesting look at the choices people make in life. ‘What you have is nice,’ Stansell sings, ‘but I don’t want that at all.’ It’s a personal tale of two lives, one who stayed behind in the small town and one who moved away. It’s very much a poster child for what Stansell is achieving on this album – that duality between entertainment and authenticity and between personal and commercial.

There are lots of other places on ‘This Must Be The Place’, however, where the mood is very different and if you love that 80s Pop / Rock sound you are going to find a lot to love on the album. Take the title track, for instance. 80s sounding keyboards and finger snaps drive it forward alongside a slick, catchy melody and a search for new love as Stansell sings ‘I fixed me and someone else at the perfect time.’ ‘Someday’, meanwhile, has an almost Disco-esque quality to it. Think Eurovision meets the Stranger Things soundtrack on a song that makes this English boy think very powerfully of the artists of his youth like A-ha, The Pet Shop Boys and Duran Duran. ‘Hell of a Year’, which features Shelly Fairchild on vocals is also an uptempo Pop-leaning anthem as Stansell looks back on the pandemic and states, quite unequivocally, ‘I won’t miss you!’

Alongside the angst and uptempo 80s beats there are a couple of real nuggets worth listening to. ‘Good at the Time’ (listen in the link above) is a funky track driven by drums and a great bass line which screams Jason Mraz meets Kristian Bush. It’s a hilarious tale about the downside of internet dating and finding out the person you meet in real life is not who they actually appeared to be online. It’s a true tale and well worth listening to Brandon talk about what happened if you ever get the chance! ‘Wild Ride’, meanwhile, possibly my favourite track on the album, begins with a military style drumbeat and a great vocal melody. It’s an empowering, ‘no regrets’ kind of song about the life that Stansell has chosen to live. It builds nicely throughout with its lush production before it climaxes in a phenomenal saxophone solo and a final quarter modulation that you can’t help singing along to.

‘This Must Be the Place’ is, if you’ll excuse the pun/reference, a ‘Wild Ride’. It’s a joyous piece of work that pops in a multitude of colours and feelings. Even when Stansell is being at his most skilfully raw there’s still a feeling of positivity that things are going to get better. This is a superb summer album that will get you through the Friday nights and the Sunday mornings. Honest, open, authentic and personal, it will make you laugh, dance, sing and cry all at the same time.

Tracklist: 1. Pick Up Where We Left Off 2. This Must Be The Place 3. Did You Settle Down Too Soon? 4. Good at the Time 5. Find You 6. Wild Ride 7. Hell of a Year 8. Someday 9. Thirty Three 10. The God’s Honest Truth Record Label: PEG Records Release Date: 24th June 2022 Buy ‘This Must Be The Place’ now

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