Review: Equipment—’Chump’

Posted: by The Editor


Equipment is the songwriting vehicle of 19-year-old Nick Stoup, a now-integral part of Toledo Ohio’s vibrant music scene. After releasing single and site-wide favorite “Commuter” earlier this year, the young songwriter has arrived with his debut EP, Chump. The five-track short-player was recorded and produced in Toledo by Steve & Dean of Secret Space, and is available now through All Sounds and Counter Intuitive Records.

Chump lands just shy of 15 minutes, and somehow it feels even shorter. And while brief, its almost impossible not to love this thing. At first glance, Chump can feel like a big hearty stew of Stoup’s influences; for instance, you’ll taste Weezer, Elliot Smith, even hints of Death Cab For Cutie and Modest Mouse. However, upon spending time with the EP, it’s clear that while these touch-points are present, there’s something much more endearing and singular at the core of Equipment songs. A large part of this quality comes from the inherent youth in Stoup’s approach to songwriting. Like many young artists, he stumbles upon the emotional clarity and wisdom many spend their whole lives looking for.

What I’ve come to love most about Chump is not only that Stoup talks to himself a lot on record, but how he talks to himself. He placidly weaves between first, second, and third person in order to lend drama or perspective to the situations he details. He spends all of “You Did It” in second person, playing the angel, the devil, and everyone in between. He continually “takes the hits,” eventually realizing he was the one administering them all along (“why do you beat up on yourself?”).

A more playful manipulation of perspective comes with “Boring,” an unabashed pop-punk song that cleverly imagines a conversation between a (former) lover and her friend. Stoup counts himself out again and again, dreaming up a scenario where his unnamed muse wishes he’d “just act like a normal guy;” her friend echoes this sentiment and responds “it’s obvious he has no place in your fantasy, but how can you leave him?” The real strength of this song lies in its relatability — not just to Stoup, but to every character in the story.

The EP’s best cut, “Phone Calls at 3AM,” finds Stoup searching for confidence at the end of a stiff drink, but not before he dives even further into self-deprecation, addressing himself by name twice: “You’re a mess, Nick” and “You’re the worst, Nick.” Not a half a minute later, a piece of his conscience leads him to a another realization: “you sell yourself short, and its lowering the value, buddy.” And with each song, that becomes more evident; Stoup’s realizations speak to both his emotional intelligence and his capability as a songwriter.

Even though he spends most of his debut EP beating up on himself, there is an innate positivity at the root of this batch of songs; I think this glimmer of light comes from the knowledge gained. While there is a distinct difference between self-deprecation and self-awareness, Chump proves that they are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes all it takes is a critical eye — or a few — to truly know yourself.

Score: 8.6/10

FFO: Weezer, Elliot Smith, Car Seat Headrest

Best Tracks: “Phone Calls at 3AM,” “Commuter,” “Boring”

Riley Savage | @RileyJohnSavage