Thomston – Topograph

After receiving critical acclaim for his early material, Thomston presents Topograph, his debut full-length album. The New Zealand-based dream-pop artist, otherwise known as Thomas Stoneman, has been working on the record for two years and is finally ready to share his creation with the world.

Topograph is a collection of moments, locations, moods, and thoughts. It brings together a diverse range of emotions and experiences. And all of this is born from a young, skilled artist who has based much on his music on the experience of graduating high school. It’s unique to get songs from the perspective of such an artist, and Thomston uses his natural-born talent to turn these things into works of art that are far beyond his years.

The album opens with “Survey (Preface),” a simple puzzle piece in the overall picture, but it is crucial in setting the tone of the rest of the music. It’s a dark, moody and ambient instrumental track, something that never really goes away in the minutes that follow.

This leads right into “Float,” a song described as being about “feeling responsible for damaging a fragile person. someone who had never been in a relationship, someone with trust issues that won’t bounce back from a heartbreak in quite the same way as other people.” This is a pretty dense basis, but the end result is an honest, soulful tune that heavily relies on words, but rests on a backdrop that keeps it all together.

A pattern begins with “Rocketfuel” in the inclusion of R&B undertones. They flow throughout the rest of the album, adding a cushion for Thomston’s lush vocals to rest upon. “Rocketfuel,” and everything that comes after it, also places an emphasis on production. A huge part of Thomston’s music is the atmosphere it creates, through all the details in the melody and sounds that form his signature style. This is something that has been in the works over the last few years, as Thomston has been learning the ropes of production for himself as a part of the development of his music.

One of the standout moments of the album is “Window Seat,” with Australia-based singer Wafia lending her vocals. Her strong, velvety voice fits in perfectly with the slow beat provided by Thomston. He later joins in to make it a duet, two voices creating one piece, with the bonus of a few great harmonies.

At risk of sounding monotonous in the overall sound and style, Thomston stands out for his lyrics, with several songs that are wordy without being too overwhelming. This especially shows up in tracks like “Birthmark” and “Expiry Date,” the latter being especially revealing and personal. These are the things that mark a good artist, and Thomston has really how to be expressive in a way that works with his approach. Combine this with intriguing production, strong ambience, and a distinctive style, and you have Topograph, a strong first statement for this evolving artist.