Before Stars Of Track And Field could even release their debut album, their bass player left the band. Maybe a bass player isn’t as replaceable as a drummer (ed: or a guitar player…cough, cough), but still, it brings pause and reason for consideration as to what direction a band takes next. Put an ad in the classifieds? Call it quits? Reinvent your sound by going digital? That last one is probably more likely to garner some attention, and it’s exactly what Stars Of Track And Field did.
The Portland band, whose name comes from a Belle & Sebastian tune, sucked it up and went the way of the laptop, blending a formerly `guitar-bass-drums’ outfit into a swirling concoction of electronic textures that yet retains its former rock sensibility. Centuries Before Love And War is like Jimmy Eat World attending a rave; enough guitar crunch to satisfy most rockers, but with the kind of electronic nuance that even Thom
Yorke can’t say no to these days.
Similar to their fledgling neighbors in the Rose City, Antlerand, Stars Of Track And Field embrace a range of instrumentation and synthesized sounds that when fully realized, congeal in a rich palette of genre-bending bliss. Opener “Centuries” is a great big swelling dose of pomp and angst, as the programmed drums give way to a piano sample while singer Kevin Calaba croons, “Put your coat on and don’t ask why/ (Further from the cease fire).” It’s the first, and certainly not the last allusion made to war throughout the album. As the title suggests, Centuries Before Love and War is loosely themed around those very opposed human conditions, that in spite of the title’s prompting, seem to have been an unavoidable aspect of our very nature as long as history has been recorded.
“Lullabye For A G.I./Don’t Close Your Eyes” continues the theme as well as taking several cues from The Eraser, that is until a delicate guitar arpeggio surfaces midway through. There is a certain quiet desperation running through the album, emphasized by the patient and lifting crescendos and Calaba’s longing lyrical sentiment. Stars Of Track And Field demonstrate a firm grasp on the quiet-loud dynamic, which allows them to imbue their music with a not unwelcome dramatic arc to each song.
“Movies of Antarctica” lingers with lonely and skittering beats and breathes cold vapor through the speakers.
Although I wasn’t immediately convinced Stars Of Track And Field could pull off the electronic transition that seems forced in the hands of lesser talents, Centuries Before Love And War convinced me the band is, while maybe not centuries ahead, are at least in stride with their time.
Antlerand – Branches
Jimmy Eat World – Bleed American
The Upwelling – EP