Starsailor has been accused of being both prosaic and melodramatic, sappy and derivative—indeed, they’ve been all of these things at one time or another. But they’re also comfortingly familiar, which makes their music reliably attractive. For their second album, Silence Is Easy, Starsailor frontman and principle songwriter James Walsh set out to create a “widescreen” wall of sound, the antithesis of the trendy, lo-fi sound of Garage Rock. The band enlisted infamous studio whiz Phil Spector for two songs, including the title track, but, ironically, it’s non-Spector tracks like “Telling Them” and “Four To The Floor” that are filled with grandiose orchestral arrangements that swell and build to dramatic walls of sound. Spector’s trademark “Wall of Sound,” on the other hand, isn’t so much a wall as it is a flimsy partition. The Bowie-esque “White Dove” is a simple arrangement of acoustic guitar, strings and vocals, but Walsh’s voice is anything but intimate. In fact, he sounds infinitely better amid the bombast of the rollicking “Music Was Saved” and “Bring My Love.” (The band is beginning to sound less and less like Tim Buckley and his son and more and more like ‘60s rock band Love.) The success of Starsailor’s debut, Love Is Here, seems to have sparked a self-referential streak in Walsh, and the results are at times justified (“We’re shooting from the heart/But if we get it wrong/They’ll feed us to the sharks,” he sings on the stand-out “Shark Food”) and pompous (“It’s for the good of you I sing sweet melodies/They’ll cast the first stone when the last one’s out of reach,” he says on “Born Again”). It’s debatable whether Starsailor contributes anything new to the genre of symphonic Brit-pop to which they so earnestly belong, but their fans probably don’t care.
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