The Stares – Spine to Sea

spine-to-sea

Prone as I am to momentary spending whims, and obsessive as I am about good independent music, it should probably come as no surprise that I often place an orders to independent labels, primarily in North America. Web of Mimicry are one such label, run by the one and only Trey Spruance, formerly of Mr. Bungle, currently of Secret Chiefs 3. Rather than order a single album at a time, a sensible person such as myself takes advantage of the combined shipping and, when purchasing a specific record of choice, I also like to pick up something on a whim.

So, this one time, I ordered something Secret Chief related, and decided to take a chance on this here band The Stares. Other than the webstore’s marketing blurb and the band’s own myspace, I had no exposure to The Stares. This is unsurprising given their somewhat low-key status. And yet, upon hearing this album, I simply cannot fathom this band’s lack of success.

Make no mistake, unlike the majority of the Mimicry roster, this is pop music. Not contemporary popular chart music, but pop music of a more classic singer/songwriter vibe. They are, curiously enough, headed up by a pair of singer/songwriters, Miss Angie Benintendi, and Mr Drew Whittemore. Their songs are folksy dreamy handcrafted songs, this album like a box full of colourful woollen socks. The two singers have wonderful warm voices (Beinintendi in particular) perfectly suited to their songs.

The music is simple, melodic, vibrant, elegant, shimmering slowly on an overcast autumn day in front of a fire in an rustic cottage. It is cups of hot chocolate on winters days, and leaves on breezes in the height of summer. And that’s not even getting to the string section, masterfully scored by Eyvind Kang. Here it plays a mostly supportive role, never intrusive, but always effective. It’s there when it needs to be, as a part of the band’s gentle swirling chaos. These are certainly not minimalistic arrangements, but they hold together effortlessly. Notably, not one track runs less than five minutes, but they never overstay their welcome. They twist and turn in subtle ways, and sometimes just when you think the song is winding down, a wondrous coda drifts in.

Lyrically, it’s quaint and abstract. Here’s a few lines from From the Sky.

I SELDOM FALL FROM THE SKY
REFRIGERATOR SMELLS MAKE ME WANT TO CRY

BUT I’VE NEVER CRIED ALL OF MY LIFE
BIRDS DIVE DOWN, MAKE ROOM FOR THE NIGHT

Gods only know what that’s supposed to mean. But it sounds good, and evokes unusual day-dreamy images.

Highlights include the Beinintendi-led 1 2 3, with its melancholic melody, achingly pretty and confident. The finale Forget the Souvenirs, the longest on the album in fact, is a slow hazy blissful ending as befits such an album. Sure, the general vibe is so laid back that the songs all sound reasonably similar, suggesting only variations on the same mood. That mood however, is one of supreme warmth and bliss, for 50 minutes, so maybe that’s all you really need.

Buy this album, you silly silly people.

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