Stokerstl - Programmed to Exist - Stereo Stickman

Stokerstl Programmed to Exist


Encapsulating the purpose of the album as an art-form, Stokerstl presents a cinematic and intricate journey, disguised as a fine collection of indie-pop songs both organic and catchy, for the naturally memorable, thought-provoking Programmed to Exist.

From a static introduction and title-track we move into an acoustic strum and clean folk-pop vocal melody, before touches of warped production and amplification meet with additional vocals and a strangely enchanting presentation, for Your Arms. All at once this feels like a romantic ode to living in the present, and a uniquely uncertain contemplation of the past and the greater good.

As things move along, the acoustic guitar remains a comforting constant, but the mood and performance style vary. Consider Vacation DayBasement Version, quiet and intimate, almost akin to the milder grunge offerings like Something in The Way, before brightening up for a beautifully uplifting chorus that aptly promises a moment of escapism. The soundscape continues to build, layers of distortion and weight adding a rockier twist of desperation in unison with these words that call out for freedom from the norm.

It’s interesting to hear these stripped-back folk-pop songs enhanced with subtle yet effective production traits – the audio-arena is toyed with, but only so far as the subject matter and feelings require, and that’s a line walked rather faultlessly by Stokerstl.

Visitation Theme is beautiful, almost Elliott Smith-like in its hypnotic simplicity and poetic searching. A personal favourite. Things then soften further just briefly, before explosively offering a long-form indie-rock anthem in the style of the brilliant Let You In.

The personal depth of the songwriting of Programmed to Exist seems to extend its reach as these nine originals progress. San Francisco feels like a particular draw in that respect, fearlessly honest and endearing, still subtly cinematic towards the end. Then we get the shoulder-swaying folk-pop appeal and striking heartbreak of Reflection String to further those intimate reflections.

“Even after all these years, your laughter fills my ears..”

Park Owl Dream – Basement Version brings back the uncertain tones and dissonance of earlier, a folk pop longing intertwined with warped strings, sounds and a powerful vocal pairing for the resolve of ‘No-one can tell me why’. An unexpectedly captivating, deeply moving song.

Wrapping things up is a superb combination of all subtleties and traits from the whole album – short lines of profound imagery and ideas, acoustic layers walking hand in hand with static production details and changing intricacies, another hypnotic and this time extensive journey through sound and lyrical wonder. Saplingstretch builds up immensely before recapturing the distance and crackle of the opening sentiments, throughout almost seven minutes of artistic expression.

Stokerstl has crafted something special with this album, effectively balancing the fearlessly personal with the broadly relatable and immersive. An indie masterpiece, in my opinion.

Find Stokerstl on Instagram.

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Founder, Editor, Musician & MA Songwriter

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