It is fair to say that the recent release of the single Smile Through the Dark sparked a keen curiosity within for the new STARRY SKIES album for which it was a lead taster. Even at that point, the loud murmur around was that the album was a “masterpiece” and the finest moment with the Glasgow based outfit yet. With Small Wonders our first real meeting with the band we cannot comment on the latter but in the captivation of word and sound it is something of a masterclass.
Formed in 2014 by Warren McIntyre, STARRY SKIES have released three previously well-received albums; Small Wonders the successor to their acclaimed 2020 full-length Do It With Love. With Jenny Lunan, Heather Phillips, Sophie Pragnell, Johnny Rooney and Adam Scott alongside McIntyre, their new album is another collection of songs which are bred and richly persuasive in positivity and the encouragement to look for the light in everything. Written as freedoms from the Covid pandemic were becoming viable choices when even the smallest were an emotionally rejuvenating joy, the release is easily emotively relatable through its stories and observations with the imagination finding itself just as keenly caught up in its eager diversity of sound.
It is Smile Through the Dark which opens up Small Wonders, the song a gentle embrace of melodic and lyrical rumination offering understanding and encouragement. From its first breath there is a seed of spirit and liveliness which as calmly brews across the magnetic ballad, its roar never a full wind but as the infectious insistence of the track a persistent energy and open reassurance.
It is an enlivening start to the record which eagerly continues with the following Spitfire Susie. A track inspired by “local hero and force of nature Miss Susie Ross”, who fixed spitfires during the war and taught thousands of children in the years afterward and who McIntyre became friends with, the track is a lively burst of rock ‘n’ roll with a rhythmic stroll and dextrous swing which soon got under the skin; a keenly bouncing body and loud vocal participation the indisputable proof.
Written from the standpoint of a young First Nation woman, Highwater Eagle is another which firmly drew us deeply in, the song an Americana/folk nurtured tale wrapped in the melancholic arms of strings and the swarthy seduction of keys. Bewitching in word and atmospheric sound as well as emotive beauty, captivation was swift and matched in that spun by next up Light In Your Soul. It too is an evocative proposal, a slice of Americana edged pop which united with body and thought as the warm radiance of harmonies shone.
The energy sparking Kindhearted People nurtures its own individual and rousing proposal in a similar mix of styles; its body hungrily catchy and breath heartily earnest while Natural Way incited just as spirited reaction and connection with its indie rock steeped stroll. Shadows and light unite in its multi-flavoured body, a noir lit air emboldened with swarthy sighs and melodic elegance as classic rock inclinations collude beneath.
Both tracks add new irresistible peaks to the album yet are soon eclipsed by I Don’t Wanna Be That Kinda Guy. With rock ‘n’ roll an instinctive passion here it was maybe inevitable the song would be our favourite but even so its garage rock and pop punk hues only inflamed song and its pull tenfold to provoke addiction whilst further proving the prowess and adventure in the band’s songwriting, imagination and sound.
Through the melodic romance and evocative musing of Iris In The Underground and the low-key folk cast calm and reflections of I Was Lost, the release only continued to hold sway on the keenest attention with On The Beach bringing the release to a poignant and haunting close while leaving ears and thoughts with a warm glow.
Small Wonders is a fascinating and quickly enthralling proposition, one as warmly intimate as it is creatively majestic; a must for like-minded souls.
Small Wonders is out now via Fox Star Records; available @ https://starryskies2.bandcamp.com/album/small-wonders
Pete RingMaster 22/09/2022
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