Published Apr 28, 2020Following up his 2018 release Trust an Amateur, Chris A. Cummings, also known as Marker Starling, updates his signature laid-back grooves (what he describes as "melancholy party jams") with the more ambitious High January. Swapping persistent hi-hats and vibe-y, albeit somnolescent, melodies for brighter dance-pop tunes, High January plays with more layered instrumentation and diverse melodies.
High January is never grandiose, but nevertheless conveys a confidence that seemed to be missing in Marker Starling's earlier work, as Sean O'Hagan's production adds complexity but retains Cummings' stripped-back aesthetic. The opening, title track, an ode to music itself, features O'Hagan's ethereal synth and a gorgeous guitar performance by Andy Whitehead, working as an affirmation of Marker Starling's commitment to this fresh bout of musical inspiration.
Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier appears on standouts "Waiting for Grace" and "Starved for Glamour," with both tracks paying tribute to elements of '60s, '70s and '80s pop music, hinting at nostalgia while avoiding heavy-handed pastiche. The Stereolab appearances continue with Andy Ramsay appearing closing on track "A Little Joy," with its synth melody evocative of sunny California, along with supporting vocals from Vancouver's Nicholas Krgovich.
These melancholy party jams are for life's subtler moments — understated, elegant and wistful. These songs are more likely to be played at the end of a party rather than in the middle of it. It opts for cuteness over sexiness, romance over passion, tenderness over vulnerability, and melancholy over sadness. High January is a triumphant step forward for Marker Starling. (Tin Angel)