Starflyer 59…

Yesterday I was in H&M—guilty—and a familiar tune came through the sound system.  It was obviously a holiday-themed lineup and what to my wondering eyes ears should appear, but Starflyer 59’s “A Holiday Song (Happy Holidays)” to bring me great cheer.  This track is rather an oddball off of 1998’s The Fashion Focus and what starflyer59-030911struck me most about hearing this song in public is that Starflyer really hasn’t gained much notoriety over the past fifteen years that they (or rather “he,” referring to Jason Martin, the only consistent member of the group) have been making music.

Starflyer is fairly prolific, having released eleven albums to date, and even with that under their belt, they remain under the radar.  They’ve a sound somewhat difficult to pin down (what if Galaxie 500, The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., New Order, and David Bazan produced magical offspring…), though characteristically shoegazing indie rock.  Maybe I’m a sucker for music that requires patience, but if you’ve not given Starflyer 59 a significant listen I’d encourage you to change that.  To perhaps help change that, here is a quick guide I’ve made to briefly describe each of their studio albums:

Silver (1994) – Shoegaze/dream pop, highly-distorted/effected, rock.

Gold (1995) – Slightly more pop than Silver.

Americana (1997) – More of the same shoegazing rock, though less engaging than Gold and Silver.

The Fashion Focus (1998) – Less My Bloody Valentine-esque, more keys.

Everybody Makes Mistakes (1999) – Moving in the same direction as The Fashion Focus, (except “A Dethroned King,” perhaps the thickest track on the album).  Excellent songwriting.

Leave Here A Stranger (2001) – Similar to Everybody Makes Mistakes, though a little darker (lyrically) and recorded in mono (as opposed to stereo).

Old (2003) – Back to the harder rock/shoegaze style.  Perhaps their best release to date.

I Am the Portuguese Blues (2004) – Loud guitars, straightforward rock n’ roll.  Jason Martin is Portuguese.

Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice (2005) – Resembles a lot of 80s pop and new wave music (even some synth bass), with some very dancy/catchy tracks.  A very fun listen.

My Island (2006) – I actually don’t own this album yet, but from what I’ve heard it’s pretty fun pop rock.  The music video for the single, “I Win,” features actors instead of the actual band.

Dial M (2008) – I also don’t own this album, but it just came out this past October and from what I’ve heard it’s pretty fun rock.  There are currently a few tracks from the album on Starflyer’s Myspace page.  The album artwork is pretty bitchen’ too.

[The Changing of the Guard (2010)]

Author: Elijah

My name is Elijah. My interests include life in active community, writing, performing and partaking of music, collecting vinyl records, hiking/outdoors, urban exploration, Celtic FC and the Detroit Tigers.

6 thoughts on “Starflyer 59…”

  1. I wonder if the reason they haven’t gotten big has anything to do with the fact that on top of music that I find boring on the surface, there is nothing about them that is engaging enough for me to want get past the boringness. I think especially of their live show, which I’ve seen at least twice (maybe more, but each has been so forgettable that I don’t really remember), and which has been equally boring and sucky each time.

    But then, my tastes have developed since I’ve seen them, so it’s probably time to give them another shot…

  2. Andrew,

    That’s interesting because I find them incredibly interesting and creative. I really appreciate their music and as I’ve grown with it over the past eight years I appreciate it more and more.

    We’ve already laid out our musical differences, but maybe you ought to try to comment with more objective things outside of your individual tastes, like “I think the 80’s are mostly a musical black hole.” I’m sure you can find more solid arguments for why you think Starflyer sucks.

    And I’ll be the first to admit that Jason Martin doesn’t exactly have a very dynamic stage presence (he’s no Ted Nugent), but neither does David Bazan. What I find so interesting about Martin (and Bazan) is the passion with which he writes his music. I don’t get the impression that he’s rewriting the same song over and over, but going new and exciting places while remaining true to his roots.

  3. I own one album of theirs (Old) and actually got it for free when I was in the entertainment biz and the label was trying to get people to play it on tv. Funny thing was it landed on my desk literally 2 days after I saw them play with Pedro at the El Ray (I think it was the Ray). I remember really liking the music and especially since (or maybe because) Frank Lenz played drums for them and then played for Pedro that same night too, and I thought he was amazing for some reason.

    Martin stood at his microphone on the edge of front left of the stage – very unpretentious – and barely moved the whole night. I loved it. Most bands I like are not run around the stage type bands.

  4. Mark,

    Well put and thanks for the comment. I find Martin to be extremely humble and I really appreciate that about him. As far as Frank Lenz, he was the drummer for Old/Talking Voice vs. Singing Voice, and he’s wonderful.

  5. Huge SF59 fan. I find Leave Here a Stranger is the best album for the uninitiated to get an appreciation for the group. My personal fav is Everybody Makes Mistakes, killer hooks.

    I was at a show once were Jason asked for some water after the first song. A few songs later he hadn’t gotten it yet, so he asked again. Then after a few more songs he was like, “Uh, I’d really like that water, guys.” Then, from the bar, a huge pitcher of ice water was passed hand-to-hand from the back of the crowd to the front, ending with me putting it on stage next to Jason as he sang and from which he drank half the water after finishing.

    What I find most interesting is how his vocals have gone from mere ambiance on the early albums to taking center stage on the later albums. I think it’s obvious he struggles with trying to reconcile creativity and celebrity, which may play a role in why the band’s never broke big. As Neil Young would say, “I need a crowd of people, but I can’t face them day to day.”

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