No genre, with the possible exception of men’s R&B, has gone as long without a substantive leap forward as women’s acoustic singer-songwriter fare (for lack of a better catch-all marketing term, but you know what I mean). Since the breakthroughs of such superstars as Ani DiFranco, Indigo Girls, and Dar Williams, coffeehouse strummers everywhere have largely been spinning their wheels in the worn, albeit beautifully worn, ruts of those icons. Happily, Chicago musicians Aerin Tedesco and Andrea Bunch have joined forces as Congress of Starlings and are breathing much-needed new life into the circuit, incorporating fresh sounds and idiosyncratic vision into their intricate, deeply felt songwriting. Longtime touring and recording veterans on their own, Bunch and Tedesco bring different, yet complimentary talents to the table. Tedesco’s primary instrument is a four-string tenor guitar, which lends itself well to both her alto voice and her brisk, energetic songs. Even slower, more reflective pieces such as “Fallen”, (“Blue sky over Erie / It’s where I see things most clearly”), sound driven and momentous. Bunch is responsible for, among other instruments, programmed beats and found sound which weave seamlessly around Kenny Dread’s Portuguese guitar on “Fishing” and clatter and clang over the thought-provoking, political “Killing Wage”. Her soprano harmonizes perfectly with Tedesco’s slightly deeper register on both women’s compositions, from the contemplative “Green” to the imagistic “Empty Me”, reflecting the symbiotic push and pull of their respective styles and perspectives. Much of Albedo seems concerned with the idea of progress, or lack thereof. But there is no shortage of ambition or progress in Congress of Starlings, who aim to fly as high and unified as their namesake.
// Notes from the Road
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