Stephen Sanchez
What Was, Not Now


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sowing STAFF
October 15th, 2021 | 29 replies


Release Date: 10/15/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Are you a hopeless romantic?

Stephen Sanchez creates the kind of music you might hear during the end credits of an indie romance flick. On the surface that seems like a backhanded compliment, but Sanchez writes so candidly and sings so beautifully that you'll probably find yourself swooning in spite of the overly sappy content. Sure, this is fairly straightforward - acoustically driven, string-swept ballads of the heart-on-sleeve are hardly a revelation - but when executed properly, such music can still be worth your time. What Was, Not Now is one of those moments.

The experience is comprised of six songs, one of which is a brief instrumental, making Sanchez's debut EP short and just as sweet as the romantic themes that it espouses. The impetus behind What Was, Not Now is loving someone so much that you can't bear the idea of existing without them. The concept is most succinctly captured on the breezy, uptempo opener 'Hold Her While You Can', where Stephen sings "She's a doll at 83, acting like we both just met / Reminding me of times that I swore I'd not forget / Now I'm 85 years old, alone lying on this bed / Missing the sound of her voice and the three words that she once said." On an EP where every song has the word "love" in it at least once, it's excerpts like this which prove to be the diamonds in the rough, saving What Was, Not Now from plummeting into a sea of love-struck lyrical tropes. Sanchez still performs a delicate dance between pop cliches and the endearingly personal, but ultimately What Was, Not Now emerges on the side of "just different enough." It may not be the most glowing endorsement when it comes to this extended play's depth, but for an eighteen year old pop songwriter, things could be worse.

Where the EP's magic truly lies is in Sanchez's stunning vocal performance. It feels as if his voice was made for these sort of songs; if you were looking for a 2021 point of comparison it might be Scarypoolparty - soft and limber yet capable of delivering those knockout blows when needed. 'Love Life' is a case-in-point, showcasing everything from high notes bordering on falsetto to effortless lower register drops; it's all seamless and natural. Beyond raw ability, Stephen has a knack for heartfelt deliveries. For instance, he takes a fairly pedestrian verse ("Would you trust me to catch you at the bottom of the pool?") and makes it feel like an earnest pledge of devotion. He always sings with an inviting warmth that makes his craft sound utterly sincere, which is an art form lost on many of today's most famous pop singer/songwriters. For being so young, Sanchez has his finger directly on the pulse of what makes a love song great - and on What Was, Not Now, he's already penned a few gems of his own.

Instrumentally, Stephen's debut EP is lush and agreeable even if unspectacular. Acoustic guitars are the mainstay, washing over the entire experience with a sense of proximity and intimacy. Much of What Was, Not Now resultantly feels like it is being performed fireside, only with less of a raw/Earthy appeal and more of a celestial reach - like a night spent laying out on a blanket pondering the constellations with your crush. Elegant classical pianos and flourishing string sections elevate Sanchez's base instrumentals to something that truly feels otherworldly, culminating in a spacious, romantically captivating atmosphere that is nearly impossible not to indulge in - even if it occasionally comes with a stereotypical side of red roses and heart-shaped chocolates.

All in all, What Was, Not Now marks an impressive kickoff to Stephen Sanchez's musical career. He displays a clear knack for emotional balladry, and immerses that skill set in an aura of love drunkenness that, while occasionally hackneyed, is usually able to stick a landing in that sweet spot between romantic platitudes and insightful expression. More than anything, this EP is simply a rewarding low-effort listen thanks to its brief runtime, inviting warmth, and spellbindingly romantic themes. What Was, Not Now finds itself absorbing a unique space between Ed Sheeran and Copeland, and it's both a highly enjoyable and equally marketable locale.



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user ratings (13)
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
NorthernSkylark
October 17th 2021


11769 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

When it comes to music yeah

Digging: Hammock - Elsewhere

Sowing
Moderator
October 17th 2021


39714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Nice. This is pretty straightforward pop, but I found it very enjoyable and it struck the right romantic tones.

Digging: Imminence - Heaven in Hiding

Lasssie
October 17th 2021


1264 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Need to get myself a gurl to listen to this with

Kayla is kinda magical

Purpl3Spartan
October 17th 2021


1926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Will check



“Need to get myself a gurl to listen to this with”(2)

Digging: Satyr - Locus

Snake.
October 17th 2021


23713 Comments


"Stephen Sanchez creates the kind of music you might hear during the end credits of an indie romance flick."

damn so this record is like seven years too late for me to 5 this

Dedes
October 17th 2021


8045 Comments


I was semi interested until the Ed Sheeran comparison.
Be real with me Sowing, will this land me woman as far as the eyes can sea or should I turtle mode back into my anime blanket fortress?

Sowing
Moderator
October 17th 2021


39714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

This won't help you land women, but it will make you depressed about not landing women.



Also, the extent of this being like Ed Sheeran is basically that it's a bunch of romantic pop ballads. I like this guy more.

BigBlob
October 17th 2021


5703 Comments


back to the castle lad

Purpl3Spartan
October 17th 2021


1926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

“This won't help you land women, but it will make you depressed about not landing women.”



Insta 5

Sowing
Moderator
October 17th 2021


39714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Love Life and Pool are what will keep me coming back to this. The musician is only 18, so it will be interesting to see what kind of a direction he pursues over time.

Purpl3Spartan
October 18th 2021


1926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yea this was real nice

Sowing
Moderator
October 18th 2021


39714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

That's about the size of it, yeah. Nothing mind blowing but very pleasant.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

AtTheGates92
October 18th 2021


142 Comments


This was a very comforting listen. I sure as hell couldn't have come up with this at 18

Sowing
Moderator
October 18th 2021


39714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I agree. This might not be the most creative thing ever but his handle on pop songcraft is very solid.

toolpeth182
October 18th 2021


298 Comments


this is pretty. there's a hint of Ben Howard's voice here, more easily heard during the quiet guitar-picked verses of Kayla. that's a pretty strong compliment.

Sowing
Moderator
October 18th 2021


39714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Interesting. I didn't immediately think of Ben Howard, but now I hear it a little bit, especially in Kayla.

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
October 18th 2021


3568 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

showed this to my gf and she instantly broke up with me

(jk i sadly didn't really like this)

Sowing
Moderator
October 18th 2021


39714 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Ah yeah, I definitely didn't expect everyone to love this. At the end of the day it's still pretty conventional pop music. It's cool that you gave it a chance.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
October 18th 2021


21900 Comments


Ooof that album cover is gorgeous

Lasssie
October 18th 2021


1264 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Tracks are gorge too tbh



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