Think a mix of Coldplay, Eliza and the Bear and Keane, and you’ve got something close to what Starling’s new album, Dream Again, sounds like. Quartet Dan, Craig, Sol and Vanessa came together several years ago with the common intention of making music; more specifically, they wanted to make music that impacts your heart-strings as much as it does your feet. The fine balance the four-piece have set up in this twelve-track offering hits the nail on the head, with each track refreshingly original. It’s difficult to categorise them as anything less that “synth-indie-rock”, but to this genre they are true.
The album opens with the title track, although at over four minutes it’s a lengthy single. There’s a strong sense of control in the piece, and the excellently produced backing leads to an underwhelming but tactical crescendo. It’s very clear that this is an album that doesn’t match up to much else; the organic, fresh sound is something you can’t simply compare directly to another work. Fall Down‘s dramatic opening and orchestral backing is a clear example of this, the emancipating sing-along traits blending in seamlessly, imploring you to join it. Starling are a band who don’t seem to think much of short tracks, but even at five and a half minutes it’s not a song that drags.
Three songs and three different slants on the same sound; Fight Like You Mean It commences in an almost entirely different manner, with the same confidence softened around the edges. An underlying guitar aspect to the intro of Hold On seems to mimic that of The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot, but in contrast to Brand New’s classic, this sound develops into a courageous and comforting track. By fifth track, Lights, the only real fault in the music seems to be the somewhat uninventive titles. Upbeat, inspiring and my favourite off the record, hints of a fuzzy-psychedelic edge mingle with a piano contribution, melding to form a track of a cinematic style and calibre.
An electric guitar to open Living A Lie promises another new slant on the record, which unfortunately ebbs away into a track lost amongst the others, before Stars In The Heavens boasts a “haven’t I heard this somewhere before?” vibe. Sounding rather dredged out of the noughties, this continues to underwhelm with a distinct lack of the usual flare. Seven minute epic Up All Night solves the lackluster tracks though, and despite the title alluding to a shallow party anthem, the R.E.M. influence is prominent and carves out a touching and honest masterpiece that truly does pull on your heart strings.
Waiting For The Sun boasts a promising opening, with a not-overdone piano intro coursing through a strong verse to a simplistic, feel-good chorus. The later gang vocals confirm suspicions that it’d be an ideal single; catchy hooks, bouncy, zesty – it’s like summer’s only just starting. A lengthy outro takes off the short-and-sweet edge however, dragging the piece out to almost five minutes.
Despite a delicate opening, When The Bow Breaks builds into a fast and tight abstract form, almost touching on Eastern influences in amongst the dramatic instrumental. In turn, You Can Feel Love switches back to a rockier edge, featuring air-guitar-worthy riffs and anthemic vocals that serve as a final burst before closing You Let Me Go. After such a spectacular collection of eleven tracks, it seems there’d be nothing that could round the piece of perfectly, and this finale seems a bit of a grower. Among the sentimental closing track cliches, there’s a fierce confidence that juxtaposes the R.E.M. moments; a little time to warm to the piece and it’s wonderful.
Whilst a record more suited to a spring release, this light and accessible piece is impossible to dislike. Cinematic and fantastic.