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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Alva Star
Princess Records

Rating: 7/10 ?

March 15, 2005
Already stars - sort of - in their native Minnesota, Alva Star's latest record may raise their profile yet. Spurred on by the heart-on-sleeve repertoire of Death Cab for Cutie and the hooky sentimentality of The Shins (who they ape perfectly on the record's title track), Escalator is a record firmly entrenched in the school of songwriting that values diversity within the confines of a track sequence, as well as a knack for appearing to pour out innermost secrets within the span of a single song.

Vocalist John Hermanson's sincere and heartfelt emotive style definitely recalls the Thin White Duke at times, as vibrato quivers his word and theatricality bursts out from within. The band is happy to play along. Their brand of pop music is laced with tempo and instrumental changes, from the opening melodic pop incantation of the aforementioned title track to the airy, synth-infused easy listening of "Downsides," which pleasantly plods along under falsetto singing and harmonizing.

The album functions as a whole, which isn't always a common occurrence nowadays. This point is enthusiastically proven by the segue of the aforementioned "Downsides" into "The Level," which almost acts as a coda, building and rising over piano parts and urgent guitar strumming.

The vocals are layered on thick throughout the course of the record, which finds Hermanson singing over Hermanson singing over Hermanson, et al. At times, the effect is overwrought, bordering on the cheesier elements of this brand of song-craft, but Hermanson really does know how to carry a melody. This is good, because any lesser talent here would be a significant distraction.

Never heard of Alva Star? You're probably not alone. But here's a new band with almost no hype that is worth a second, third, and eighth listen. Minnesota's newest musical export may find their space in the pop music pantheon yet.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker



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