Warm, rewarding and stirringly beautiful
It’s not unfair to say that some musicians are more ambitious than others. Whatever your categorization of musicians, it should be imperative for Stargaze to be included in the “good” category. Most bands that teeter into the realm of classically trained either border on anonymous, or are so pretentious as to be impossible to take seriously. Stargaze has found a lovely middle ground between the two and in doing so follows up last year’s collaboration with Policia with an even more enthralling performance on Lisa Hannigan and S T A R G A Z E live in Dublin.
A collaboration with Lisa Hannigan is precisely the reason why Stargaze is not a wholly obscure collective of talented musicians. By choosing exciting collaborators with reasonable critical and commercial clout they’ve opened themselves up to entirely new audiences ready to welcome them with open arms. But where most bands and groups treat collaborations as casual playgrounds, it’s clear that Stargaze means to enhance the spirit of their musical partners, expanding their reach with clearly devised musical genius.
Mere seconds into the record it is clear that this is something special. Hannigan’s light but propulsive voice is precise and comprehensible, allowing lyrics to be easily heard on the first listen, which becomes especially important as the poetry of the album begins to present itself, as it does on “Bookmark” where she whispers “Am I a friend? Am I an unwieldy heroine? Parentheses, a little did she know? Am I a crow? Am I a gun on the mantle?” It’s uncommon to think of albums by Stargaze as lyrically proficient, considering that they excel in instrumental work, but Hannigan adds a depth of curiosity to her lyrics that propels the album forward in exciting new directions.
As for the instrumentation, it’s excellent as ever, inspirations are called out of the woodwork without feeling plagiarized. “A Song for the Dying” in particular has a strong nod towards Radiohead in its melodic structure. But in a slight twist since their latest record with Policia, the instrumentation serves almost entirely to enhance Hannigan’s portion of the tracks. Yet their lush sound is never lost, each song, whether it be the soft and cool “Nowhere to Go” the folksy anthem “Anahorish” or the poppy “Undertow” each track is fully realized and stirringly beautiful. And these gorgeous tracks are all further enhanced by an organic warmth only achievable through live recordings, making for a full and rewarding listening experience.