With only one proper studio release under his belt at the time of his death, Jeff Buckley, son of folksinger Tim Buckley, left an indelible inkblot on the ever-changing page of modern rock. His masterpiece, 1994’s Grace, inspired a legion of awkward and introverted disciples who are just now coming of age (and creeping onto record label rosters worldwide). Among them, James Walsh of Britain’s Starsailor, the buzzworthy new band named after Tim Buckley’s 1970 album.
With Starsailor’s debut, Love Is Here, Walsh’s pop sensibility and ear for melody not only recalls the younger Buckley but the likes of New Radicals and fellow Brit-band Travis as well. Walsh’s vocals are sweet and distinctive on tracks like “Lullaby,” with a soaring falsetto not unlike the late singer’s. “Tie Up My Hands” and the organic “Way to Fall,” garnished with subtle flashes of studio sonics, are ripe with plucky folk guitar-work and clangy percussion; the latter builds into a heady climax, perfecting the ultimate rock cliché.
Walsh’s lyrics are often obscure (“I was looking for another you/And I found another one,” he sings on the piano-driven “Alcoholic”) but sting with each and every syllable (“Daddy, I’ve got nothing left/My life is good/My love’s a mess,” he pleads in the lovely “She Just Wept”). “Coming Down” poignantly recounts the plight of drug-addled lovers, with Walsh assuming the role of the resentful enabler: “I’m sober/Still alone/Must I always take a backseat?” Brutal honesty resounds with every lyric, organ moan and guitar chord. Love Is Here is from the bruised heart, the chattering mind and, well, every place that matters.