Stealing Sheep are about as 1980s as it gets. Their look, style, and sound are all reminiscent of the glory days in pop music. The cover art of their latest album-Big Wows-is somehow a more glamorous version of Haim’s Something to Tell You project from 2017.
The Liverpool collective consists of three members; Rebecca Hawley, Emily Lansley and Luciana Mercer. All contribute vocally over synth-infused production (reminiscent of a Flock of Seagulls album during the heyday of pop). Their aesthetic, while captivating, lacks originality. Big Wows is listenable at best, never escaping their clear inspirations-which range from Lana Del Rey vocally (“Why Haven’t I”), or Ladytron (the jittering keys on “show Love” remind me of a less monumental version of any song from their self-titled project).
The production is dreamy, but basic (and predictable). Stealing Sheep doesn’t have the luxury of writing trite lyrics (mainly because they’re not popular enough), but they do anyways. Their delivery on the intro track, “Show Love” is robotic-and not in a good way. The twinkling keys do little to add excitement to the underwhelming chorus; which basically entails the trio repeating, “show me your love” 20 times.
The skittering bass-line and ominous lyrics are a nice addition on “Back in Time.” It’s one of the few instances where Stealing Sheep builds an interesting platform for their futuristic vocals (“We look around these dead-end streets/Remove the blades I’m trying to see”).
Their ambitiousness quickly dissipates throughout the middle third of the record. “Jokin’ Me” is a weak attempt at connecting with the millennials, especially with its juvenile nature in all facets. The background vocals on “Why Haven’t I?” add much-needed layers to an otherwise lifeless track.
The English trio wearily drags their way through songs like “Girl” and “Just Dreaming.” The former features these fluttering, chopped-up vocal patterns that sound like a bad remix to a Chainsmokers ballad. The latter is reminiscent of an early Lana track from Born to Die. It’s not terrible; just something I’ve heard countless times before.
The title track is more subtle, and therefore more intriguing. The trio finally gets groovy, igniting life into a flatlined album. The chorus, and light-tuned Caribbean sound in the background are perfect for a summer drive; and the lyrics are more nostalgic than childish (“Is this what I want/Is this what I dreamed about?”).
Their genre-meshing becomes stale by the finale, specifically with the obvious dancehall instrumentals on “Breathe,” and “Choose Like You.” The mixing on the latter is messy, and not as complex as the trio makes it out to be. They’re not living up to the enthusiastic nature of the genre they consider themselves to be a part of. Most of the production is uninspired and undeniably boring. It all culminates with a finale titled “Heartbeats,” where the whole three-minute experience is literally just a bass that sounds like a heartbeat. No lyrics, and very minimal synth. It makes no sense within the context of the album.
Big Wows is a step back for pop music, which is depressing considering how strong of a year indie pop has had so far (Ladytron and Japanese House). There’s no nuance to Stealing Sheep’s newest project, just blandness. The cover art is deceiving. So is their glamorous look.