Shimmering Stars – Violent Hearts

Rating: ★★★½☆

As the last few years have seen, recording in a home studio has reaped great rewards for many bands, and such is the case for Shimmering Stars, who recorded in a garage studio.  While some might yearn for cleaner production, the quality of the recording is one of the attributes that makes Violent Hearts so affecting.

Opening up with “Believe” and “I’m Gonna Try” established a mood rooted in the history of classic pop from an earlier era of music. “I’m Gonna Try” might portray an outcast, or even a rebellious teen, but the melody provides listeners with an endearing warmth, only made stronger by the perceived distance provided in the production.

“East Van Girls” has almost a psychedelic quality to it, pushed through by the deepness of the guitar.  Using a vocal that seems to drift in from another room allows Shimmering Stars to maintain that quality of effortless pop one usually achieves when focusing on the craftsmanship of the melody rather than simply using the best equipment available.

While Violent Hearts might have a tendency to get lost in its own dense quality, the brightness created in spots by Rory McClure’s vocal belting always provides a reassuring that the band isn’t here just to give you a muddied spin on pop of year’s past. For instance, “Sun’s Going Down,” opens with a great floating McClure line before the band jangles their way through the song.  His vocals always seem to rise and float above the music, sort of the way you would expect Brian Wilson to explore his own garage recordings.

Your first through runs through Violent Hearts might indicate that the band is creating track after track, all blending together, but a closer focus on minor details will reveal that this is not the case, at least not entirely. “I Don’t Wanna Know” easily fits into the modern spectrum of revisionist pop, with Shimmering Stars paying more attention to banging out their notes at various points, rather than holding them back.  The album’s closer, “Walk Away” is a trickling pop number, one that doesn’t really fit into the grand spectrum of the record, and it might lead you to wish the band had mixed this number earlier into the collection.  It takes a noisy little gallop at moments, always returning to it’s own softness–more such tracks would definitely have benefited the overall sound.

Shimmering Stars definitely have their ears pressed hard in the past, but of course, production value brings them into the present.  This is also a moot point, however, as the songs on Violent Hearts easily speak for themselves, allowing breezy pop moments to take the lead, whisking you away down a sunny Interstate drive.  At the end of it all, you’ll press play once again, returning to that place in your heart where nostalgia meets the present, pushing you to smile at the joys of music listening today.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/SS_NervousBreakdown.mp3]

Download: Shimmering Stars – Nervous Breakdown [MP3]

Violent Hearts is out now on Hardly Art Records.

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