By the close of the 22nd annual Sammies awards ceremony at Ace of Spades in November of last year, Stevie Nader’s hands were full from clutching his New Artist, Singer-Songwriter, and Release of the Year trophies for his debut 333. It was an underdog moment for Nader, particularly in the Release of the Year category as he beat out Paper Pistols, Young Aundee, Screature, DLRN, Doombird, and Dog Party.
Now, his mantel may be decorated with Sammies but Nader’s local profile and career didn’t change much from it. He didn’t take business lunches with A&R type,, he didn’t sign to a record label, Concerts In The Park didn’t book him, and his new record, Grit, was self-released with zero promotion or press.
That’s right, Stevie Nader just released an album, arguably the best local release of 2014 thus far.
Nader’s rapid ascension in 2013 is no fluke. Like fellow Sammies winner James Cavern, Nader’s arrival came on the strength being a handsome singer-songwriter of the John Mayer ilk because since the invention of the guitar, one of its primary functions has been the serenade.
His single “Take You On” is wedding proposal material, to be heard at first dances, declared as ‘our song’, and guarantee a captivated few in every coffeeshop audience. Unlike Cavern and Mayer, Nader has an identity outside the campus green playlists. In the back end of his debut the music recoils into claustrophobic, downtempo and electronica-soul oft associated with acts like Blood Orange, How To Dress Well, and James Blake. If 333 was sequenced in chronology, it was easing his audience towards further exploration of the sound so that he could present a realized artistic vision on his follow-up, Grit.
If there’s an element of “Take You On” that persists in his follow-up, it’s his earnest writing style. Nader does not approach life with flippancy or passivity towards vices. Grit is characterized by Nader’s unflinching pursuit, be it conquering demons on “Swimmer” or recovering without fear on “Feel Everything”. With the help of enigmatic producer Boywolf, Nader’s intensity is magnified with fussy glitch passages that expand into afrobeat chants. The magnification of anxiety and obstacles is mirrored by the production, while Nader has calculated his every move in reclaiming lost loves and methodically chasing aspirations. It’s as though Boywolf personifies Nader’s subconscious, the inner weaknesses, via languid and ethereal synth compositions and his voice is a champion’s spirit, battling trepidation.
333 was a passable debut, an uneven record riddled in identity crisis. Grit is Nader honing his music into a territory that reflects his values and interests in electronic music from collaborating with artists like DLRN. It’s a progressive record that will undoubtedly severe a few fans from the pack, but it must be done in order for Nader to avoid an early plateau.