This may be a first. Here I am, loving a group whose songs are not only featured on MTV’s silly sex soap, Undressed, but who are also going to be featured on same said conglomerate’s upcoming compilation disc. Weird. I can’t say that I’m even a remote fan of MTV, but I can’t seem to get enough of judithstar* and their haunting, beautiful EP.
For starters, it’s track two, “Always in Trouble”, that keeps getting played over and over around here, and is probably one of the catchiest things on the disc. It’s built around a simple three-chord riff. But then, that’s all you need sometimes. judithstar* are a duo, made up of Brett Lyda and Tracy McMillan. Brett plays the guitar, and Tracy sings and plays her Rhodes piano. The drumming is divided between Brett and friends. The band describes their sound as “something like if Aimee Mann and Marvin Gaye had a baby”. Even that statement doesn’t begin to describe the sound of judithstar*. They are clearly in an equally talented, yet separate class all of their own.
People tend not to talk a lot about soul anymore. But where exactly is the soul? It seems like a thing of the past anymore. Yet judithstar* embrace soul perfectly. They are Soul Personified. All it takes is one listen to Tracy’s Rhodes playing and her raspy voice and you can see this. One can become hooked to it on the very first. It isn’t a matter of needing to play the disc a few times to get warmed up to it. There is something very inviting and comfortable about fossils that just welcomes the listener right in. Enjoying music should be as close to effortless as possible. The songs on this disc make it very easy to like judithstar*.
There are “only” four songs here, but they are all perfect. “Too young to know what to do with the feeling / Bury it up to the hilt / Just disengage, maybe stare at the ceiling” sings McMillan on the title track, sounding at once both powerful and weary. Yeah, don’t come around here looking for things to shake your ass to. judithstar* is all about the slow burn, the enrapture. But it’s not hard to find a way in.
No, the delights are many here. On “Always in Trouble”, Lyda’s guitars cascade as the drums do a cool stereo shift back and forth between the speakers during the fills. The sound is crystal clear. The groove is undeniable, unbearable even, as it just makes you want to hear more, to play it over and over again. And in “Ever So”, the drums take on a surreal quality that solidly back McMillan’s sexy and breathless delivery. “I don’t wanna love you / I don’t wanna let you inside / I don’t wanna listen . . .” go the words as the Rhodes kicks in again and decorates the song in a glistening beauty.
On the closing “Dirty Feet”, judithstar* get trippy as the song starts and stops, the guitar freaking out alone in the background, and Tracy adding her own spooky spin in top of it. It makes for an intense conclusion, yet is just as enjoyable as the rest of the disc. The kind of thing that resonates in your brain for a long time after.
This is the kind of music that should be released more often. It’s elegant, original, and as accessible as anyone could want. The band is gearing up to do a full-length release, which should be anticipated greatly. But you can add fossils to the list of great EPs that were released last year. This one certainly belongs near the top of the stack. So give these guys a visit and a listen. judithstar* are certainly one of the best things out there now.