Vanity (Velvet Blue Music)
by Scott Deckman
Welcome to Scott Deckman’s short(er) reviews, as it seems most people have the attention span of a gnat on speed these days. And likewise, this is a shorter study than a week or two’s constant listening. Here goes …
Vanity is Starflyer 59‘s 16th full release (there’ve been a plethora of smaller ones), and it’s treading the same ground as the last four, except without a near-great tune like “Young in My Head” off the album of the same name. Jason Martin is keeping on with the somnambulance, downers and slowing down, both lyrically (“Cause everybody’s out there/But I spend my whole life in bed,” “Life in Bed;” “Sometimes I like to lose, man/Feels better than a win,” “Like to Lose”) and literally. Is this the genre-shifter’s slowcore record?
It’s Western (lazy Morricone guitar on “Asunder”) and Moog-jazzy at times, can be lush, pretty, and elegiac — dreamy, if derivative. There is also the continued latter-day Starflyer ’80s sheen both in the songs themselves and production; a drowsier (mostly) Echo & the Bunnymen come to mind. But overall, Vanity‘s not great. Though to combine all this: Strange synths, occasional sax (I believe) and piano, typically tasteful guitars, and whiffs of surf, is a feat. (Some of this reminds me of Pennsylvania’s Ocean Blue, who, surprise, once released a song called “Vanity Fair.”) He does speed up on “New Guitar,” a treatise on getting what you want — or not — and “Hey, John” is another heartfelt, everyday meditation on his dead father that he’s become known for. Martin’s voice is monotone as always, but more up front than ever. Just because it’s not my cup of tea doesn’t mean it’s trash. Martin shits quality.