Remember that group you liked that embodied what you thought the 90’s were? Do you love that folksy rock sound of the 70’s? Yeah, that’s The Starfolk.
Conjuring flashbacks of the Cardigans, Band of Horses, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Sneaker Pimps, the Cranberries, and even a little Garbage is enough to give the listener whiplash as you listen to the self-titled album from The Starfolk.
Frankly, I think even Brian Tighe would admit the group was a selfish endeavor. The group came together as Brian’s desire to work with his wife/collaborator Allison Labonne and to reunite with his fellow The Hang Ups founder Stephen Ittner. Jacqueline Ultner rounds out the foursome. Ultner, a talented cellist, was brought in to play on one track Brian had in mind. She ended impressing so much she played her way right in to group to add that orchestral sound and x-factor sound that would be painfully missed now that we hear the album on a track like ‘Wake Up Machine’.
Tighe and Ittner are a part of the Minneapolis music royalty in The Hang Ups. They rocketed to fame in the Twin Cities, a notoriously overlooked fertile ground for homegrown music. Teamed also with Jeff Kearns John Crozier The Hang Ups represented an integral piece of 90’s culture. This indie pop rock group became a measuring stick for other groups at the time for both success and sound in the indie scene at the time. They were even a musical part of arguably one of the seminal must-see 90’s films, Chasing Amy.
Allison Labonne steals the show most of the time, not gonna lie. No offense to her doting husband, but his better half can sing. Labonne has plenty of her own acclaim as a centerpiece in The Owls also with Tighe. Her whispy, lilting voice haunts and energizes. She seems to levitate through albums and appears in the background supporting Tighe’s crooning. The balance between these two voices feels like a pillow fight or maybe a waltz of words. Accompanied by distant drums and a languid cello makes for some beautiful consonance in tracks.
The Starfolk’s self-titled album was the desire to collaborate with Brian’s favorite people, but what pushed this album to the next level musically and lyrically was Tighe’s desire to impress Ittner, a notoriously tough, honest critic of Tighe’s work. Tithe had to reach a little deeper to get Ittner’s thumbs-up and the resulting quality shows.
‘From Above’ a melodious, Ben Folds Five type of track, comes far too quickly. You begin listening to the album and before you know it you’ve run through the whole offering. My first listen was a passing listen while I worked on something else. The album finished and the silence made me jump; it was startling and quite loud, the sudden silence.
This is an incredible album highlighting everything a music fan like myself loved about my yesteryear of music discovery in those formative times. It is an album that is the great discovery in an old recording studio; the lost album masters of a group of modern musicians and artists. It’s the greatest 90’s album made in 2013 and I mean that in the highest regard. This is a sound I thought lost to a new genre of pop, but it is always reassuring to see groups like The Starfolk still bringing the kind of sound that leaves a little more to the imagination and gives a little more back to the genre than they take. Substance still holds court over style on this album.
The Starfolk’s self-titled entry is available September 10th on Korda Records and you’d be remiss to pass up a shoe-in for a spot in the year-in-review lists like “Album You Should Have Heard This Year.”