Stinkus (aka Tyler Thompson) is gearing up to release their first true body of solo work, a magnum opus of hazy bedroom-pop-meets-slacker-rock called 23. Having previously had success with their other bands WILD and girlhouse (and some stints producing for other bands like Smallpools, The Mowgli’s, Timothy Edward Carpenter, and Jon Bryant), Stinkus is no stranger to songwriting. If you’re like me, you may have incorrectly assumed that 23 was a reference to Stinkus’ age. In actuality, Stinkus’ inspiration for this album came after a split with their fiancé of seven (7) years. And while Stinkus is surely tapped into the zeitgeist of warmly-produced-indie-folk-with-quirky-lyrics that fits in so well now in 2024, their songcraft dives so much deeper. There are plenty of metaphors referencing mental illness, drug abuse, and the like… But at its heart, especially musically, 23 is just Stinkus finally being Stinkus. And it rips.

“I am” introduces the album and all of its charming hallmarks – expect lots of acoustic guitar strumming, vintage synth tones, and Stinkus’ endearing vocal delivery. Don’t be alarmed by the first lyric – “you have the coolest mullet.” Stinkus has this magical way of following up borderline jokes with hard-hitting observations. Almost the very next line is a banger – “I’m an open book and she’s open ended.” You’ll find this goofy/serious wordplay scattered throughout the album. While you’re vibing out hard to the unique instrumentals and excellent songwriting, you’ll find yourself at different times smiling, reminiscing, and reliving every single one of your past mistakes. It’s a roller coaster for sure, but one I’m happy to be on.

One of my favorite parts of 23 is Stinkus’ liberal use of “la la las” and “whoa-oh” melodies that dig deep into your head. The fleeting “Rodeo Mary,” full of tasteful blue notes and simple-but-effective drum bashing, is approximately 50% la-la-las. They follow it up with the equally la-soaked title-track – here, airy acoustic guitars strum, gangster-rap tone keyboards squiggle in the background, and Stinkus peppers in their trademark self-deprecating lyrics. It’s simultaneously sunny and heartbreaking, and as an overarching theme, that’s what makes this album so great. There’s something special about juxtaposing lyrics about “smoking that shit” against genuinely crushing realizations like “the best part of being 23 was not knowing who was good and who was fucking with me.” It lies somewhere in the æther between wistful nostalgia and living in the moment; their words are nebulous, stream of consciousness, and ultimately very real.

There is so much to dive into here, and it’s worth mentioning that not everything on 23 is a folksy strum. “FOLLOW” kicks off with a grungy punch, layered thick with fuzz and chorus tones closer to Superheaven than Alex G. The ambient “Star,” with its clean, twinkling guitar plucks, could fit comfortably on the next American Football album. The self-referential “Fucked Up Song” will make you laugh with it’s many references to Stinkus’ “shitty” songwriting (their words, not ours), evoking The Front Bottoms or Modern Baseball with it’s neurotic but heartwarming self-hatred. And just when you think Stinkus is going to keep things relatively serious, the grower “something to eat,” with its plodding, chorus-laden guitar backbone, sneaks in the melody from the Halloween trick-or-treat chant. There’s even the soul-crushing simplicity of album closer “Summer Day,” where the soft plunk of lo-fi piano and a far-off sound clip in lieu of vocals wrap things up perfectly.

23 by Stinkus is out April 5th, 2024. You can find all the ways to listen to 23 via this helpful Linktree link.