For Stars, Airline People (Acuarela)

Posted February 10th, 2001 by admin

For Stars
Airline People
By: Eric G.

I must admit when I first listened to this I laughed out loud. I thought it sounded like something you'd sing while holding hands around a campfire. On the surface it does have a very Kumbaya/cheesy/folk quality to it. Something made me listen to it again, though. There's a simple sadness about the way Carlos Forster pins his thin voice against such a stark backdrop. The lyrics can be silly and naïve, but the slow, swaying music reaches small peaks, which draw you in. The songs are so fragile- it feels like everything could fall apart at any moment.

Carlos Forster's voice walks a fine line between a grating whine and a tragic lilt, but his plaintive melodies help plant him in the latter category. "At The End Of The World" strangely recalls Peter Paul And Mary the way the voices intertwine in harmony. I'm not doing a very good job of winning you over here, I'm sure. A Peter Paul And Mary reference would certainly put me off too, but it's an accurate description and still sounds good- you'll just have to take my word for it. "Brown Skin Saint" has a classic British pop sensibility to it- something very proper and traditional, despite Forster's American accent. He makes a line like "we have airplanes for the sky" sound like the end of the world.

"Motorway" welcomes lush keyboards into the brittle acoustic atmosphere. The tinny production benefits from trembling reverb and a warm electronic presence. Forster's voice cracks when it hits certain notes- not abrasively like Will Oldham's does but subtly and effectively, making the song sound more human and real. "The Racecar Driving Scene" spotlights Forster's shaky vocals with slow building percussion and rumbling sound effects. The layers of sound swell in time with Forster's strain. Very Galaxie 500. "Airline People" reprises the pure poetic pop sensibility that Paul Simon honed to perfection over thirty years ago, while also recalling some of Belle And Sebastian's more intimate moments.

For Stars makes fine melancholic pop music without either ham-fisted irony or androgynous ambiguity as is the tendency of comparable British acts. Or maybe, I'm just spaced out today. This is an EP of outtakes, so, thinking optimistically, that must mean its albums are that much better. I would normally throw a CD that sounded like this out the window without a second thought. It speaks volumes about For Stars that I haven't.

Tags: review