Friday, 15 February 2013

Starfucker - Miracle Mile


Starfucker of Portland, Oregon are a four piece making the difference in a genre which has become easily comparable to the 'one track wonder pop albums'. Sophomore album Reptilians was released in 2011, their first album on growing independent record label Polyvinyl. Starfucker, abbreviated to STRFKR, are in the indie pop / electronica genre of artists that could be considered chillwave, like Neon Indian. STRFKR are very much like Passion Pitt, except they have more than one good track on their albums. Miracle Mile is their third album and quite likely the most well-rounded pop / indie album released to date by the Oregon four piece.

Miracle Mile is a 15 track album lasting approximately 50 minutes. From an outsiders perspective, having a lengthy album has its pros and cons. obviously, the more material the better if it's of any worth, for instance M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. When pop and electronica are mixed with indie undertones, the length of the album makes a massive difference. There are not many indie pop albums that last longer than the 40 - 45 minutes, and that's for good reason. The fulfilment factor is very much at stake on Miracle Mile. If you're releasing an album with 15 tracks, they need to be up to scratch and meaningful throughout the album. If we return to my opening sentence, the one track wonder albums - Starfucker could very well fall down this route, that's if they had a hit to fall back on. It's a topic of discussion that draws many opinions and splits listeners, does having a one hit wonder bring more negativity than say, and moderately average / good artist without a hit?

Starfucker are certainly no hit, and they won't be producing something of an indie album any time soon. Miracle Mile is like I said a well-rounded album. It's not the most enticing of albums, with tracks like "Golden Light", "Last Words" and "Say to You" filling time. The back half of Miracle Mile is very much the slower, dramatic side of the album, but it's not as effective or captivating as the opening section. "While I'm Alive" instantly familiarises the listener with Starfucker. Looped vocal shrieks, reverberated guitars and a funky bass riff, this is what we pay for. This track is pretty much flawless and one of the best electro-rock type tracks I’ve heard so far this year. There's something about vocal loops that work better than synthesizer riffs. M83 being an artist that will vouch for the vocal instrument.

"Sazed" and "Malmö" follow suit, though not as strong as the opening track. Both tracks feature child-like vocal and a stripped back synthesizer that's never overpowering, but never powerful. There's a mixed range of instrumentation and progressions on Miracle Mile, this album is never quite aimed in a single direction. It's a combination of rock, electronic and pop and Starfucker blend this well. It's as if the first three tracks didn’t exist when the fourth track "Beach Monster" comes around. Delayed, reverberated vocals plague the track with a very eerie instrumental that's a mix between krautrock and dream pop. Starfucker like to mix the genres around, putting themselves in a field of experimentalists and genre hoppers, which makes the short track "Isea" as exciting as an acoustic guitar and withdrawn reverberated vocal can be. This plays straight into the louder, heavier and curvy rhythms of "YA YA YA". This is the highlight of Miracle Mile, and it's Starfucker at their best - loud bass, consistent percussion and an extremely catchy vocal. The guitars have been heavily affected and sound great among the other instrumentation. 

Miracle Mile takes a few listens; it's an album to which the listener can get involved. Starfucker find their feet and take a grasp of their third album in the middle segment. "YA YA YA" paves the way for "Fortune's Gold", a track with a deep bass which mirror's the acoustic guitar creating a glorious and dark effect, and the later synthesizer adds that little bit of prominence Starfucker lacked on their sophomore album. The following track "Kahlil Gibran" completes the trilogy of strong tracks. Light acoustic guitars with reverb enter at different points either side of the track. Again, the vocals sound fantastic and Joshua Hodges hits the high notes, with his child-like voice. 

Starfucker have come a long way since 2011's Reptilians. There's still an instrumental edge on this music, but the vocals and lyrics have drastically improved and are more prominent. Tracks like "Say to You" are entirely formed around the lyrics. "Atlantis" - as much as it sounds like an Empire of The Sun track - acts as a nice synth heavy breather. Likewise, "Leave It All Behind" features several layers of synthesizer over an electronic beat and synthesized bass. This track is pure electronic and questions the rock validity in Starfucker's sound. The truth is Starfucker are incredibly versatile, they mix it up a little and they're not afraid to turn instantly. "I Don't Want To See" follows the electronica nature of back album tracks. The back end is collected, cooler and Starfucker at their most honest and lyrically provoking. Underneath the glistening synthesizers and layered vocals, there’s a sad song, "Last Words" being the answer to the first three, happier tracks.

It's almost inevitable that the final track is the longest; "Nite Ride" has dreary vocals, a 90 second build up and growing layers of synthesizer to accompany the real drumming. It never really gets going, which is a shame really because at seven minutes, you expect something of quality and persistence. They show signs of greatness, but also a clear weakness in the inability to see out a lengthy composition. Miracle Mile isn't quite the album I expected Starfucker to release. The material here is far cooler, easier and relaxing than previous albums. They have an album of 50 minutes, and they fulfil it all. It varies between pop, electronic and rock, with Starfucker taking in every influence and every past recording to deliver an advanced sound. And they have advanced with time. The instrumentals are cleaner; the effects are stronger and actually intended for its purpose, effect. Starfucker need no introduction, they just need a direction.
~Eddie

7.5

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