Four Hours Light (Deep Elm)
by Tim Den
What can you say about a band as pop-savvy as Starmarket? Stripping away the thundering rhythms and post-hardcore guitars of their last record, Calendar, Four Hours Light shows the true nature of a band whose compositions had always come more from the singer/songwriter approach than the stumble-and-fall of the punk rock genre. In fact, Elliott Smith could’ve written the songs on this record. There’s no blemish to disguise the pores — however flawed and raw they are — and no cowering behind volume. Just the best things a moody, melodic, broken-hearted, sincere, verse-chorus-verse-chorus wonder can offer. When you can take a song, strip everything away from it — be it attitude, delivery, distortion — and still have something innately touching and relevant to everyone, that’s songwriting at its best. Not that Starmarket needed to prove that to me, but they’ve really nailed it on Four Hours Light and proven that the world can lose its entire electrical source and still have one fine group of musicians.
Produced and recorded by Pelle Gunnerfeldt, of Swedish brethren Fireside (another jaw-dropping band), Four Hours Light’s bare-bones nature is given a boost by lush instrumentation incorporated at just the right moments. The second, sonically-obscured drumset on “When the Light in My Heart is Out,” the pedal steel on “Tonight,” and the abundance of piano throughout the record all complement the songs’ mopey characteristics like passing traffic in drunken vision: a collage of beautiful, smeared colors. Different shades of sadness are brought out, the instruments emphasizing and setting the pace, and the result is simply delicious. They can melt even the most cold-blooded, cynical non-believer into a gooey, starry-eyed mush of love. Of course, then they’d make the piles of mush experience the kind of monumental heartbreak only a melodramatic eighteen year old — coming out of his first relationship — can feel. Crushing, like the end of the world.