February 19, 2018 Starchild & The New Romantic – Language (Album Review)
Looking for something new? Starchild & The New Romantic’s debut full-length album, Language, lifts off like a time traveling spaceship headed to an alternate reality where the ’80s never ended. Set for release on Friday, February 23, 2018 via Ghostly, the album functions cohesively to revive that ’80s Synth Pop sound. It serves as a perfect extension of the era’s better Pop sensibilities smoothed over with R&B gloss, and as the stage name of Starchild suggests, a hint of Funk.
Those unfamiliar with the talent that makes up this new project, Starchild’s Bryndon Cook grew into the music industry first as part of a family pastime and then on the road touring with the likes of Solange and Chairlift as a guitarist. Ready to take the next step in his career, Language builds on the sound he first created on his 2016 EP, Crucial. Fourteen songs in total, the title-track, “Language,” opens up the album and immediately sets the tone. Inspired in part by the earlier works of Michael Jackson, the album borrows some of Jackson’s polish, but the balance of influence lays largely at the feet of Prince. It can be heard throughout the track list from the panty dropper “Mood” to Cook’s channeling of Prince’s signature yips on “Only If U Knew.” The title of that song plays both with the modernity of text speak, “u” for “you,” and Prince’s famous hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” penned for Sinead O’Connor. Each track makes it obvious that Cook is not only a musician, but also a student of music that revels in learning from the masters.
Language serves as Singer and Multi-Instrumentalist Bryndon Cook’s expression of sensitivity and softness, qualities that he says, “black boys… have to stomp out of ourselves.” In this vein, Language also functions as a protest, he calls upon others like himself on the track “Lost Boys,” an ode to Rufio and the other lost boys from Disney’s interpretation of Peter Pan in the 1991 movie, Hook.
While at first glance, the album seems delicate and light with the keys, guitar, and synthetic chords woven deftly into a sonic lace. The themes and musical references reinforce it as if that lace was spun out of teflon. A strength masked as tenderness that complains of a loss of love and struggles to maintain a sense of openness and innocence. On Language, being vulnerable is a revolutionary act. Cook sings “[his] sensitivity is [his] strength.”
The album makes old themes new again, talking about heartache in the internet age. Though the lead single, “Hangin On,” a saccharine sweet Pop ballad, denotes heartbreak, it still displays a level of tenderness that makes it a great soundtrack to fall in love with someone to and it is resourceful enough to offer comfort if that love ultimately fails. The ambivalence of the lyrics aids this thinking, “Fell asleep last night. / Thinking about you. Saw you in my sleep, chased you till morning came. My mama said “follow your dreams” / Well, I guess you were my warning. Now I’ve let myself go/ Hope you’re still holding on.“
Overall, Language as a whole aches to be understood, but at times it feels over produced. The lyrics get lost among a haze of multiple lines of instrumentation, both real and synthetic. The words sometimes are unable to find their way back out of the clouds. The track “Mood” being particularly guilty of this towards the end. In enough words, Starchild can be proud of this ambitious debut that points to the past while looking up to the stars. That is why CrypticRock gives Language 4 out of 5 stars.