Today marks the release of Patrick Stump‘s debut solo album Soul Punk, and I’m going to put my cards on the table: It’s my favorite album of 2011, and has been since I first heard it. (You can stream it here.) Hooky and witty and jam-packed with instantly hummable tunes, it is a fantastic pop record, one that I probably would have worn out by now had it been issued to me in a format less durable than the infinitely spinnable MP3. Stump plays all the instruments on the album (save Lupe Fiasco’s cameo on a Chicago-centric remix of the civic-pride endorsement “This City”) and he gets off a lot of casually virtuosic bits; the guitar solo on the ebulliently bittersweet “Everybody Wants Somebody” is particularly delightful. And then there’s his voice, which helps him channel both swaggering snake-oil salesman types (on “Greed”) and people whose hearts have been punctured by the vagaries of love (“The ‘I’ In Lie”).
“Everybody Wants Somebody”
The critical bias is, of course, that I was a fan of Stump’s band Fall Out Boy, a fact that some of the more taste-policey people who read this site had a bit of trouble wrapping their head around last week. There’s definitely a through line between that band’s last record, 2008’s Folie A Deux, and what’s happening here, although the dominant reference points skew more toward the soul side. “Cryptozoology,” which is a hidden track on the album (isn’t it great that the digital age hasn’t killed that bit of fun?), is a direct heir of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis’s approach to pop-funk, with zigzagging guitars and a breakdown that you can almost see Morris Day jerking out to.
“Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers)”/”Cryptozoology”
And I feel like if I don’t mention the chronicle of adolescent awkwardness “Allie,” the soaringly posi closer “Coast (It’s Gonna Get Better), or the jittery, pessimistic bit of spaz-funk “Dance Miserable,” I’ll be giving them short shrift. People often talk about how debuts are “accomplished,” but the way this album operates both as a whole and on a song-by-song level is pretty astonishing, especially in a time of diminished attention spans and “an MP3 star is born” evanescence. More importantly, Soul Punk reveals what a great pop album—one that sidesteps the Eurohouse trap befalling too many artists these days and just gets down—can sound like. And boy, is it thrilling.