Music

Garrison Starr: Amateur

Starr comes off sounding a lot like Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards in both tone of material and voice.


Garrison Starr

Amateur

Label: Radtown Music
US Release Date: 2012-05-01
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

Garrison Starr’s seventh album might be called Amateur, but that’s the furthest from the truth. The country pop singer-songwriter has sandpapered down her collection of 13 songs here, and they practically sparkle and shine. Starr has an upbeat and positive personality, even bubbling in the enclosed liner notes to her fans: “Thank you so much for lifting my spirits and encouraging me to keep moving. For the first time in my life, I feel truly happy.” That sense of contentedness really rubs off in the smooth and catchy hooks of the songs that populate Amateur – well, for the most part. Starr has even gone so far to rein in one of her idols, country royalty Mary Chapin Carpenter, to sing backup vocals on acoustic ballad “I May Not Let Go”. The overall vibe of the album is one of pleasantness. There certainly are bright, shimmering numbers to be found here, including “To Garrison, On Her 29th Birthday”, which nicks the bass line melody (probably unintentionally) from Guided by Voices’ “King and Caroline”, and the frizzy “Between the Devil’s Rain and a Dying Language”. My favorite is “When Nobody Was Looking”, which sort of sounds like – and please don’t laugh – an ‘80s track in the vein of Eddie Money. In fact, Starr comes off sounding a lot like Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards in both tone of material and voice. Put Voyageur and Amateur into a multiple CD player and shuffle between the two, and I would dare you to tell the difference.

Amateur isn’t a totally stellar affair. At almost 50 minutes in length, it could use a bit of pruning. The songs tend to sound the same and run into each other, giving the record – outside of “When Nobody Was Looking” – the sense that there aren’t any really standout tracks. Perhaps over-consistency would be a way to describe Amateur. Also, while ballad “The Needle and the Vein” is an absorbing song about drug use, it sounds a little odd on an album largely full of punchy and uplifting numbers – and I get the sense that Starr isn’t exactly someone who has personal experience, say, mainlining heroin. (I could be wrong, but that’s the impression the largely breezy nature of Amateur gives off, never mind the fact that she did have a song on an earlier album titled "Like a Drug".) Starr, despite her sunny disposition, sometimes looks down at her belly button and ruminates in the negative: final track “Other People’s Eyes” offers the line “I’m 35 now and I feel washed up”. Still, Amateur is a poppy, sleek disc full of tuneful mainstream country songs, and the work of someone who has spent a great deal of time honing her craft. Despite the odd foray into dark territory, Amateur is sugary sweet, and the overall vibe that you get from this cute and cuddly album is that perhaps its creator might need a good well-placed hug now and then.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.