I like to joke that my favourite band, Editors, is being screwed over by English music journalism but I feel like if anybody, Starsailor have the right to wave the unjustly dishonoured flag around.
Not that they didn’t have their fair share of success but they’re still not as big a name as bands of their caliber like Keane. Or perhaps it’s the britpop genre itself that’s starting to die out, or at least get less and less airtime. Times are changing, man, it’s tough out there for a band these days.
Either way, I loved these guys back in 2009 and I still love them dearly. Their first four albums defined that year for me, with James Walsh‘s distinct, crystal clear vocals, the warm piano rock songs, the sensitive ballads, the incredible hooks the likes of which my young 16-year-old self had never heard before, the experience was one in a lifetime which is why I was shocked when they announced their hiatus. I can’t for the life of me find where I’m getting it from but I vaguely remember James saying he has to put food on the table and Starsailor wasn’t doing it for him currently. It felt bad, it felt like the worlds collectively let them down when they deserved so much more.
Of course James Walsh never stopped making music, had his solo projects and collaborations, wrote some music for some movies but other than that the four-piece went off the map. They released some greatest hits record, played some gigs but right until the release of Listen to Your Heart I had no idea they were preparing with a whole album and a comeback. And I’m delighted, guys, as subjective as it sounds of me but my heart is happy cause now we have a new Starsailor album and I love it.
It does very little that can be called new. It’s still the exact same format that was the magic-maker back a decade ago and the old machine is still working. Listen to Your Heart is a powerful banger that gets your blood pumping, James Walsh’s vocals ring loud and clear with the half-melancholic but still energetic riffs and addictive chord progressions. The title track, All This Life could’ve been ripped straight from Love Is Here and I wouldn’t notice and I could actually say this to many of the songs on this album. And it might sound like a bad thing cause I make it sound like they’re being boring or just doing the same thing…
But it’s beautiful?
If we take a recent band as example, I said this after Bastille released Wild World that I wouldn’t want another Bad Blood so why am I okay with another Love Is Here/Silence is Easy/On the Outside/All the Plans? Maybe I would’ve been okay with another Bad Blood if it had been done well so maybe it’s just that Starsailor are damn good at what they do.
I can only blame it on the masterful songwriting, that emotion, that even after over fifteen years, these songs still feel like James Walsh is sitting on a chair across from you and singing his songs personally to you. Sometimes you can tell from people’s voices that they’re smiling even if you can’t see their faces, that’s what this albums feels like this to me. I was wary going into it because eight years is a long time and the music industry has sped up even more since then so can these guys who really weren’t built to be on the cover of AP or Under the Radar keep up?
The answer is they can’t. And they’re not meant to. All This Life is a laid back, comfortable ride through the best parts of Starsailor. Even songs that start out kind of lukewarm (Caught in the Middle, Best of Me) turn it up and sweep you off your feet, the slower ballads (Sunday Best, No One Else) are romantic and beautiful, you just bask in the pleasant harmony of the vocals, and the classic piano rock sound as gem follows gem on this record.
Fuck it, I’m not being paid for this blog, I can say this, it’s probably the nostalgia speaking, you know? I wouldn’t recommend this album for newcomers looking to get to know this band. Sure it’s a great listen but it won’t gain them any new fans that’s for sure. And that’s okay. There’s no urgency here, just pure, unadultered joyful music.
My rating is based solely on the previous albums, if Love Is Here and On the Outside are nine and Silence is Easy and All the Plans are eight then this has to be a seven because this is my blog and I make up the rules.