Partners - Review for Daystar:
By Jason Dixon
formula: A gangly acoustic guitar bed onto which silky-smooth vocals,
swelling electrified guitar leads, organ, keyboard violin orchestration
are layered. Call it retro-psychedelic, call it spacerock, call it shoegazing;
one should also call it epic - at least in scope and length.
Daystar is Lab Partners' debut release for hometown label, Big Beef
Records (Dayton, OH), as well as their first non-self-produced release.
As narcotic-laced as anything Black Rebel Motorcycle
Club is doing and definitely reminiscent of greats like the Jesus &
Mary Chain and Ride, Lab Partners are really not innovators, yet they
seem to be better at communicating their emotions through their songs
than any of the previously mentioned stars. Not included on Daystar
are piles of hidden meaning and innuendo - one of the band's strongest
suits is that singer/guitarist Mike Smith wears his heart, and his melodies
on his sleeve. All the way through the record, the listener is encouraged
to take flight along with the band, whether it is to a distant galaxy
or just right around the corner for a cup of coffee and a scone.
The listener is hooked into their journey straight
off by Smith's endearing vocal charm and sparse acoustic accompaniment
on "Gold". Slightly quirky, the track could be a lost recording
from a Ben Lee or Sean Lennon session.
Daystar fully hooks the listener with the carefully
constructed "You Make It Better" and dutifully reels him in
on the marathon-distanced "Still Shine On" - which grows into
probably the best 10-plus-minute excursion of the year - the story never
gets old, the progression is never tiring.
Another of the album's odysseys (4 of the 14
tracks outdistance the 6-minute mark), "Furthest From Love",
seems to decisively establish the Lab Partners' mastery of layer-and-build
songwriting. The opening keyboard and drum skeleton gets a heavy dose
of horns and swelling multi-tracked vocals midway through, until the
song gets a triumphant, screaming guitar solo turning the original dirge
into an almost anthemic thing. Of course the band isn't done there -
after a huge breakdown, they are at it again with the build, now adding
tambourine and perhaps a tinge of gospel and some well-placed "Bah-bah-bah-dah"-s.
In the end, "Furthest From Love"
is really a descriptor for the whole of Daystar - in its ability to
take the listener to 15 different places, usually not all-at-once, yet
without suffering one bit from its diversity of elements