TRACK REVIEW: Glassmaps - I’m Sorry





I’m Sorry





I’m Sorry is available via:


Rock; Alternative


London, U.K.


1st September, 2017


IT is interesting so much of my current…


endeavour revolves particular areas. At the moment, I am (mostly) caught between London, Canada and Australia. Now, when looking at Glassmaps, I am back in Australia – and London, too. Although Joel Stein’s moniker is stylised – not something I can easily produce on a keyboard – there is a lot to love about the man. I will look at his track, I’m Sorry, soon, but, for now, an investigation and insight into the songwriter. I wanted to talk about artists from Australia and leaving that life; stepping away from a successful band; making relatable aspects stand aside from the competition; how hard work ethic can lead to incredible live dates; looking at love through music – and having to accept the truth – and mixing different colours/decades into an album. So music, for Joel Stein, is dispositive and reaffirming. He has changed a lot since his band-days in Australia. From the 2004 formation in Sydney – through to the London dislocation a couple of years ago – Howling Bells enjoyed a successful and inspirational career.  I will talk more about the band but it seems odd so many Australian artists are coming to the U.K. For Glassmaps’ creator, that happened quite a while ago, now. I am idealising Australia – I know it is not all sun and sea – but I am pining for the draw and allure of Australia. I have reviewed artists from Melbourne and Sydney through to Brisbane and Hobart. There is something about the nation that attracts me and beckons the reviewing side. A lot of Australian acts are coming my way and, each time I look at an act from there, there is something unique and engaging. Not to stray too far from the path of focus but looking at Joel Stein’s past and one can understand why he wanted to join/form a band in Australia. It is a great place for musicians and somewhere that intrigues the imagination. The incredible landscapes and varied areas; the fantastic people and wonderful history. So, then…why are many artists coming to the U.K.?


I guess there is greater wealth and variation here in Britain. Maybe there are more creative and commercial opportunities available over here. Naturally, many come here because that is where life takes them: other times, there is the need for greater stability and progression. The weather here, especially today, would suggest there is a lack of judgement when abandoning the clement and calm of Australia. Maybe we are in that mindset that suggests people would tire of the U.K. and chase the warmth and adventure of Australia. There are benefits of both countries but I feel, in the case of Joel Stein, there is more of a career for him here. Although there are a lot of great Australian acts, we do not often associate the nations with big labels and the best new acts. Maybe that is due to the fact our media does not spend a lot of time there. I feel, however, there is great music in Australia but nothing that rivals the finest of the U.K. (and U.S.). Here, we have some huge labels and radio stations that broadcast over the world. Australia has international brands but their scope and popularity are not on the same level as here. Many artists go from somewhere like Sydney to London because there is a richer and more stable fanbase ready here. For Joel Stein; he would have weighed up (years ago) the benefits of both nations and made the decision to come here. Now he is here; he is embarking on a new path and reaping the rewards of the British music scene. Not in a cruel way but there is nothing THAT standout regarding Joel Stein. He writes subjects that are similar to a lot of songwriters and has a story that does not leap from the page. The reason he is so special is how he has adapted from one way of life and created a new one – a big leap and fantastic new project that is among the most compelling at the moment. He is firmly based in the U.K. and is seen as a talent who can go very far.


In explaining and rationalising Glassmaps; it is important looking back at Joel Stein’s previous lifestyle. Howling Bells is a band many of us are familiar with. The band formed in 2004, in Sydney, and gained moderate success in the U.K. following their self-titled debut in 2006. Juanita Stein, Glenn Moule, Joel Stein and Gary Daines recorded the album, Heartstrings, in 2014. Although there is no word of any follow-up album; it seems Joel Stein is engrossed in solo work and has no intention returning to the fold. It seems their ‘current’ album did not fare as well with critics than their earliest work. Critics felt there was a listlessness and repetitiveness in Heartstrings; a sense of weakness at times and a lack of focus. Although there are great moments, the L.P. lacks the bite and nuance of their debut, for example. Despite the slight decline; the lifestyle of Howling Bells would have been something to envy. Every band has a great story but it seems the Australian band were ones to watch. That is still the case but imagine those early days and the adventures they would have had. Getting attached and engrossed in that mould would have been easy and comfortable. In Australia, Howling Bells enjoyed success and performed some incredible gigs. In fact, when I talk about the band, I give the impression they recorded all their material in Australia. They started life there and would all have been based there in those early days. By the time their debut came out, they were in London and aware of the landscape here. It seems, therefore, not a huge leap to go from a popular band like Howling Bells to a solo life. Joel Stein knew the pace and makeup of the U.K. and what was required as a solo artist. It is still hard to fathom why so many come from Australia to here; go from a band into a solo life – it seems an opposite attack would be more romantic.


I am not down on this country but have yearnings to visit Australia and capture a lifestyle that is less hectic and stressed. What is interesting about Glassmaps is it is a natural development from Howling Bells. The Glassmaps template is not an enormous departure: Stein takes colours and skills from his band and brings it into his new work. Maybe he has got all he can from the band – and not completely detached from the guys – but it is still quite a risky move. If you are in a group that has enjoyed popularity and has an established lifestyle – leaving all that and stepping out on your own can be nervy and hazardous. You do not have the stability and backing of your bandmates and have to start anew, in a way. Stein is an experienced musician and knows the landscape of the business. Even so; he as to re-establish himself and grow from the ground, up. Whilst Glassmaps does inherit blends of Howling Bells: so many different contours come into Stein’s solo output. I will step away from this point but have seen other artists go from a band to stand on their own feet. It is impressive to see and I am always drawn to their bravery and need for a change. For Joel Stein, based in London, he would have learned a lot from Howling Bells and that, in turn, would be the foundation on which he launched Glassmaps. Now, away from the Sydney-formed band, Stein is venturing out and putting his music to the world.


Strangely Addicted is Glassmaps’ new album and one that is full of stories and revelations. It is one of those personal records that seems to resonate because we can all appreciate what is being said. I will talk about I’m Sorry but consider another release like Hypnotised. That song bursts with harmonies and Beatles-inspired bursts. There are 1970s elements and Classical hints; a real array of sounds and sights. The key theme is being captivated by the charm and sexuality of the girl and not being able to step away from that. If the composition dynamic is rare, the story being told is one many of us would be aware of. A lot of my reviews have been about the familiarity of music and how few manage to distinguish themselves. One of the worst things about modern music is how many artists attach themselves to something ordinary and overdone. We have all felt the pangs and twists of attraction; the heart-skipping rush of love and the sting of loss. These are not new aspects and many songwriters are not adding anything original to the party. This means a mass of new songwriters are failing to stand out. Glassmaps might be written off when reading the stories behind the songs. There is nothing staggering about songs like I’m Sorry and Hypnotised – their inspiration does not shout at you and really lodge in the mind. It is just as well the music and lyrics themselves transcend the predictable and remain in your thoughts. The greatest trick is writing music that connects with the average listener but does not repeat what is already around. This is really hard to do because there are so many songwriters around. Many are doing the same and it is always challenging deciding which are worth listening to. Although a lot of Howling Bells’ music was written by Juanita Sein: Joel continued a lot and would have learned a lot from his sister. Coming out on his own; he is taking from his personal life and what he has gone through in the past couple of years.


I wonder how much of his solo material would have started during the band’s time. A few of the songs would have gestated then and grown into something recordable. It is only when he stepped aside from Howling Bells when Strangely Addicted took full shape. Hypnotised is a song that documents the addiction of love and attraction but laces so many interesting aspects into the blend. It is not surprising many have hooked onto a song like this. It has a solid and familiar core but – and why it stands aside – is the personality and unique insights that come from the song. Stein has his own perspective and is someone who does not repeat everything that has come before. He has a love of 1970s music and earlier stuff; a full chest of records and genres at his disposal – all unified and conspiring in a terrific track. Other moments on the record stand aside and one gets a really personal and intense workout. Away from the sweaty and lust-filled songs; there are times for introspection and some wondrous offerings. I shall not go into too much detail – I have not the time to review the whole album – but I know there is nothing cliché about Joel Stein. He will not be seen fitting into the mainstream too readily: keen to explore his own path and write music the way he wants to. He understands the commercial need for relatable themes but never compromises his own music and water things down. The lyrics and vocals will connect with many people but it when one throws the composition in the songs rise above the rest. I have talked a lot about the D.N.A. and anatomy of Glassmaps’ music but not explore the live dates and how well Stein has done as a performer.


One might associate Glassmaps with being a solo venture but, when stepping onto the stage, there is a red-hot, slick band. His summer has been notable with some incredible dates and memories. Stein provided main-stage support to The Killers at Hyde Park and The Great Escape festival in Brighton. That is a pretty big deal and for a new outfit; few manage to scoop those accolades so early. The fact Joel Stein has spent years in Howling Bells would have helped secure that slot. The band Stein has assembled is slick and organic and helps expand the music. One gets that when hearing the Glassmaps album but there is something different about the live performances. Rather than provide rather samey and repeated sounds: Glassmaps transform slightly and add something new to the songs. It is small wonder they are a popular live proposition and have secured those big dates. I guess streaming services and radio promotion is key when getting your music out there but one cannot underestimate the relevance of live performance. Seeing Glassmaps share the stage with The Killers would bring the music to a huge amount of people. Many of us ignore how important live music is when getting the music to labels and new fans. Glassmaps is already a popular force but those big summer gigs would have introduced unfamiliar listeners to the music of Joel Stein and his crew. Not only would the huge gigs have brought Glassmaps to new people but it would have helped secure new dates for Joel Stein. Many promoters and venues would have seen the performances and been gripped by what they saw. I am not sure how Glassmaps’ 2018 is looking but one knows there will be some great dates in the diary. Glassmaps has supported Michael Jablonka at The Lock Tavern and had an eventful year. This will only grow and I know Stein is looking ahead. I am not sure whether he plans on remaining here in the U.K. – his album was recorded in the U.S. – but there is a chance to tour internationally and spend a lot of time overseas.


In terms of his home; he is settled in London but will want to stretch his wings when it comes to gigs. Having spent a lot of time in Australia - that must be somewhere he is keen to return to. Melbourne and Sydney are big areas and many will want to see him play there. Having recorded in the U.S., one can imagine Las Vegas (where Strangely Addicted was laid down) and L.A. are going to be in his mind. America is going to be a big market for Stein and I wonder, when he gets gigs out there, that will bring his music to the international forum. Glassmaps is gaining traction but one feels 2018 will be a pivotal year. I am not sure what Joel Stein has in mind but gigs and big dates are highly influential when it comes to getting the music to the masses. This year has been a really exciting one for Glassmaps. I will move on now to look at the subjects that are tackled on Strangely Addicted. The reason I wanted to champion I’m Sorry is because it carries a sense of heartbreak and confusion. I’m Sorry is tackling the realisation you are not with the one you want: the need to get with someone else or readdress your life. I have spoken about the danger of addressing common themes and how hard it can be standing out. What I love about the song, and will show, is the real sense of emotion and physicality in the song. Its story is not like anything out there. The strain and turmoil going through the mind of Joel Stein comes out in a song that gets into the heart. It is a song that connects with me because, although I do not have the same love conundrum, the sentiments of being in the wrong place speak to me. I cannot connect with that sense of being somewhere not ideal and wanting to move on.


I am in a situation where I am pining for someone and unable to articulate that desire to her. It is a situation that is causing a lot of hurt but, when hearing the likes of Glassmaps share experiences, it gives me some motivation and guidance. I am not one who takes his lead from music but it is always interesting seeing how musicians address concerns we all have. Love is the most popular and represented subject in music: every artist has a different slant but there is a sense of the unspectacular in many corners. Those who can write something tangible and keep the listener compelled must be congratulated. Joel Stein has taken a lot from Howling Bells but, when listening to Glassmaps, there is new inspiration and sounds. He would have gained songwriting experience with the band but gone through changes and personal challenges since the formation of his pseudonym. Accepting the truth and reality of things is not easy to take. Many of us have to accept some hard truths and aspects in life but Stein has found himself in a relationship that seems like a compromise – not the girl he really wants to be with. That yearning for someone else is something I can get behind. Love is a common comestible but talking about it with new light is much needed in a music industry that is showing some staleness and overfamiliarity. One of the reason I’m Sorry – and songs on the album – benefit from a blend of decades and sounds. I have alluded to it but, rather than write something too commercial and ordinary: Stein brings a compendium of different shades and ideas to the music. This will see him succeed and grow as we go into 2018. Many musicians are making strides and stepping out. I feel Joel Stein’s solo project is going to be among the chasing pack in the coming year. He has already achieved so much and, with his album due, that will only expand and evolve.


PHOTO CREDIT: Rachel Lipsitz

The stirring and impassioned piano introduction to I’m Sorry reminds me, in a sense, of Coldplay. It possesses the same drama and emotion one will find on a record like Parachutes. Regardless of any familiarities; it is a perfectly hard-hitting and rousing way to open the song. Even before Stein approaches the microphone, it seems the introduction offers a sense of apology and argument. It is a strong and solid sound that gets into the bones and projects images of strains and debate (among lovers). Stein, when talking about the song, suggested it was not a wallowing and explosive song but one where he finds resolve to progress and move forward, Taking this all in; the opening seconds of I’m Sorry take all of the swirling emotions and questions together and feed them through the tender (yet firm) opening. Aside from some needless tautology – “It’s 3 A.M. in the morning” – the hero is sitting alone and weighing things up. It appears the lovers are on the same property but he has stepped away to get some space and think about things. It quickly becomes apparent the heroine has left and walked out the door. Maybe she is not happy with the way things are going and wants to get away. Stein is making sense of all of this and taking things in. She can see it in the hero’s eyes: things are not going well and he wants to be with someone else. Stein’s voice rises and holds under the pressure of everything. It is a beautiful and quivering vocal that is backed by that rousing and Classical piano. I wonder whether there has been conversation concerning the break-up or they are taking time aside to breathe. Neither party is happy with events - and it might be best they spend time away from one another. The introduction piano comes back in and seems to visualise the walk-out and fall-out. The hero apologises things are the way they are and he feels like he does. I am not certain whether it is a mutual decision but it appears things are beyond easy repair.


Whilst the early-hours-lament gets into his skin; the heroine is walking the street and getting away. The piano splits between the hero thinking about things and deciding what he needs to do: the girl walking through the night and wondering where she goes next. It is hard accepting a relationship has outlived its utility but that seems to be the way things have gone. The girl was sure Stein was the one for her; that everything she believed in was true. Maybe he has been unhappy since the start but there is that desire for future contact and reconciliation. Although the hero does not want to be in a relationship; he does not want to sever ties and abandon her. He might not be able to have it both ways and, when love does hit the rocks, it is hard keeping a cordial and friendly vibe between former lovers. Anyone who has experienced breakups will know the struggle adjusting and moving past the fact. Stein seems more comfortable with the situation but his voice continues to question and tremble. He is sad things have taken the turn they have but is relieved he can now move on and be with the one he wants. Evolution and progression are top of the thoughts – maybe having time alone or being with a girl who is better suited and compatible. Stein’s vocal – backed by the piano and percussion – remind me of John Lennon’s solo material in the 1970s. There are elements of The Beatles’ best work with a sprinkling of contemporary R&B. All of this together is a heady brew that gets under the skin and provokes the listener to think carefully – what they think about the situation and the images unfolding. Many will relate to what is being said and can empathise with the hero. Towards the closing stages; little tingles and whistles work in the background. Stein has raided the room of unusual instruments and brings an array of sounds into the fold. The composition boasts more colours and turns; there are backing vocals and wordless chants; the chorus keeps coming back and the emotions still run hot. Flecks and shivers bring the song down and, when reviewing the story, one wonders whether things worked for the best and both were able to move on. I guess Stein needed to be away from his girl and be with someone else. It is a hard realisation but one he has to broach. The aftermath is quite severe but Stein will see it as a positive and freeing situation.  


Strangely Addicted is a ten-song record that will arrive on 10th November. Make sure you get a copy and experience all the different stories and sensations available. I have heard the L.P. and can recommend how strong and stunning it is. Joel Stein began his recording life in Australia but has moved to the U.K. and gained huge success as part of the band, Howling Bells. I am not sure whether he is still part of the band and what plans he has with the guys. Maybe the band will record another album but it seems Joel Stein is busy with Glassmaps right now. Critics are raving about songs like I’m Sorry and Hypnotised. They are offerings that draw you in and keep you mesmerised. I am a fan of songwriters who manage to talk about everyday emotions/stories but bring something fresh to the plate. The narcotic decrescendo of I’m Sorry sits alongside the unique threads on songs like Inner Place and Summer Rain. Strangely Addicted was recorded and produced by Stein in Las Vegas. It was captured at the home-studio of The Killers’ bassist Mark Stoermer – where Stein was recording with Howling Bells. When he was there, he saw a room filled with unusual instruments like double bass and a three-stringed banjo. Recording the whole album on an old Telefunken microphone; one gets a real vintage blast throughout. Members of Howling Bells feature on Glassmaps’ album so it is highly likely the group will be involved in the future. Maybe he has the best of both worlds right now. He is able to connect with his band but steps away and record his own material. Stein’s obsession with those instruments and that space meant he lacked sleep for weeks and was engrossed in that world. It was new to him and a different way to record. Stein brings some established and esteemed faces to the record and, released on Lost in the Manor Records, Strangely Addicted showcases a hungry artist who wants to build a huge legacy.


I feel Stein has a lot to say in 2018 and, when his album is out there, there will be big gigs requests. THAT is the moment when his career will really take off. Once a record is out, the songs will feature on radio and spread across the world. I wonder where Glassmaps will head next year. London is still a big base and there are many venues he has not explored yet. Stein is familiar with the city and will want to go to other areas. So many terrific spots around the U.K. will want to bring him in. Brighton, Manchester and Leeds are areas I know would love to see Glassmaps perform; Glasgow and Liverpool other choices. The international market is where he can really cut his teeth and gain followers. I have mentioned the U.S. and Australia but the European market is big right now. One only can imagine which nations will line up to have Glassmaps come visit them. It is exciting to wonder and I will watch Joel Stein’s progression with great interest. I’m Sorry is a song that perfectly articulates the themes of the album. There is that struggle against misplaced love and the desire to be somewhere else. There are less stressful offerings on the record and the London-based musician takes the listener through an array of situations and settings. Make sure you get the album and discover why Glassmaps is gathering huge momentum. That trajectory and popularity will rise as 2018 comes into view. From his days with Howling Bells – whether he is still with them or not – Joel Stein has grown into a confident and stunning musician who has gained fresh impetus with Glassmaps. An amazing artist with plenty more to say – now is the time to get involved with a man who…


IS among the best U.K.-based artists right now.


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