Starflyer 59: Slow

Twenty years ago, with two albums of noisy shoegaze under his belt, few might have predicted that the influence of Jason Martin, or the Tooth & Nail Record label with which he worked, would have set the pace for music at that tricky intersection of contemplative faith, art, and commerce. Yet there he was last fall, featured on NPR’s “All Songs Considered” in the company of Brian Eno and Elliott Smith. Small wonder, though; his newest offering, Slow, adds another notch to a lengthening belt of quality albums. Like Out of the Grey on their recent A Little Light Left album, Martin turns his muse towards autobiography, reflecting with the wisdom of middle age on his twenty years of marriage, the sacrifices of raising children, and the looming spectre of infirmity and retirement. “My kids, they grow up fast,” he laments on the title track. “I want it slow, so slow.” Deadpan humor is the order of the day as he dryly frets, “I’m right on pace to fall apart, like some weirdo.”  Working again with the rhythm section of Trey Many (drums) and Steve Dail (bass), the trio produces a gorgeous, catchy set of indie rock tracks with influences ranging from reverb-soaked surf pop to garage rock, from Blue Oyster Cult to the Cure. Martin’s vocals, free of shoegaze’s indecipherable mumble, recall Beck’s languorous baritone work on Sea Change and Morning Phase. The thumping “Cherokee,” accompanies its road trip story with the chugga-chugga guitar swoop from “Wipe Out,” while “Hi Low” experiments with how much mileage a song can get out of two different guitar notes. If you’re Jason Martin, the answer is: a whole lot.

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