Review Summary: A veteran band releases a career making album.
For those unfamiliar with Starflyer 59, they have quietly flown below the radar for two decades despite offers from major labels. Originating in the early 90's in the infancy of the radical changes undergoing the Christian music market, they helped lead the way to original, artistic development in the stale, lackluster category of contemporary Christian Music
It is extremely unfortunate that they got pigeonholed because of their affiliation with the Christian scene, as they were above and beyond anything getting released in the entire indie scene for most of their career. The singer-guitarist, Jason Martin, is the soul of Starflyer 59, with an ever revolving door of bassists, drummers, and keyboard players.
Starting out as a very dreary, distortion-drenched shoe-gazer band, paying heavy dues to bands such as My Bloody Valentine and The Pixies, Starflyer 59 took a few years and several albums to truly realize their own sound and potential. However, on Talking Voice Vs Singing Voice, not only did they hit their stride, they hit it hard. The songs on this album are almost unbelievable. It took quite a few listens to really soak in how brilliant the songwriting on this album is, not to mention the production. If a band like The Strokes brought back that 80’s garage rock vibe, then Starflyer 59 brought back the beauty of the striking rainy day vibe of bands like New Order.
Mixed by Ken Andrews of Failure/Year of the Rabbit fame, it is clean, crisp, and spacious, allowing every little nuance to shine through in the mix. The trademark, mellow, contemplative vocals of Jason Martin carry like a soft whisper through the gentle power of this record. It plays much like Dark Side of the Moon, with its gentle acoustic guitars, pristine and dreamy electrics, and abundant keyboard flourishes throughout. The bass and drums never really shine through in any fashion, yet rather, hold a solid, firm establishment for Martin to craft eclectic guitar riffs and soft-spoken vocals.
From beginning to end, this album is easily playable, without having to skip a track, the type of album that feels good to put in and just let go to. Not to say that in a negative sense by any stretch of the imagination, the chill mood that this album evokes in not just background music, it is meditative, surreal, and comforting, much like latter-day Radiohead or Sigur Ros. I would be tempted to give this album an almost perfect score, but not every song stands up to high standards a perfect score commands. There are quite a few tracks that simply do not grab your attention, while there are others, that make you want to hit the repeat button quite a few times.
I am not keen on giving track by track descriptions, but I feel the need to throw a few out there, that are quite noteworthy. Track #3, ‘All Good Sons’ is a pumping, energetic song driven by an amazing guitar riff that is a throwback to the upbeat tunes by bands such as New Oder. Then you have soft spoken pieces such a ‘Softness, Goodness’ and ‘NifghtLife’ that have a vibe reminding me of a songs like 'Comfortably Numb' without ever crossing over the boundary of stealing ideas or replicating the songs.
For any Starflyer59 fan, this is a must-have and for those just now discovering the band, this album is a fine start for you to to begin falling in love with the band and their catalog.