Stars of Track and Field - A Time for Lions
Record Label: Wind-Up Records
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2009
One of the better releases of 2007, was Centuries Before Love and War, the Wind-Up Records-supported effort from New York's Stars of Track and Field. Originally from Portland, OR the three-piece indie-pop band formed on DirecTV's game show "Rock and a Hard Place," which found the band competing against country superstars Lonestar for a shot at stardom. Taking their name from the Belle and Sebastian song of the same name, the band released an EP and a self-titled LP before putting the wheels into motion for Centuries. A fine-tuned, precisely orchestrated exercise in electronic-enhanced pop prettiness, the disc was a compelling and inviting listen that never received the attention it so rightly deserved. After eight tours and 70,000 miles logged, the trio relocated to Manhattan and began writing what would become A Time for Lions.
Influenced by the likes of Aphex Twin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and My Bloody Valentine, A Time for Lions is a well-executed collection of 11 slices of stadium-ready, anthemic rock, with a luster and gloss that's too hard to ignore. From front to back, with nary a flaw, this may arguably be one of the year's best straightforward pop-rock albums, if not the best. .
Opening track "Racing Lights, "sets the tone from the very beginning as it dives head first into a giant chorus, a titanic wall of sound and one of the more impassioned choruses released this year. Fueld by vocalist Kevin Calabra's hearty vocals, "Racing Lights," makes a huge statement before even a full minute has elapsed.
Second track "End of All Time," picks up right where "Racing Lights," left off and delivers another irresistible, falsetto-fueled chorus. Seven minutes in and already two highly indelible choruses. In an attempt to display their diversity, the trio chases down Brit-pop on the decidedly Mancurian "The Breaking of Waves," in which a twinkling guitar gives way to Calaba singing, "Its all I can see, its the breaking of waves, I wrap my coat around you, you stare down at your feet." Its at this point of the disc that Calaba makes his claim for being one of the country's most underrated vocalists. Though the merits of the "The Breaking of Waves," and the disc's first three songs are not due entirely belong to him, he does for all intents and purposes, take center stage. Like a maestro leading a symphony, he seems to inherently know how and where to inflect his timbre and how to command complete control. It doesn't hurt that the song's sweeping movements are graceful and lush and that the inspiring guitar lines are propulsive and powerful. Make no mistake about it, this is no pedestrian pop-rock disc. This is quite simply, as good as it gets.
The placid ripples of fourth track "Now You Lift Your Eyes To the Sun," has a decided Our Lady Peace-like movement in its opening verses and the aching, desperate sentiment makes for an intoxicating and hypnotic listen. The Mancurian vibe returns on hypnotic, siren song "In Bright Fire," which boasts another cascading chorus, throaty vocals and triumphant guitars. Being that the album is not yet half over, it's worth nothing that there hasn't been a single second of filler or disappointment. Those sentiments are echoed wholeheartedly on sixth track, "Peeling Away," a quivering, jittery number that's adorned with desperation, disappointment and heplessness.
Calaba and crew return to pop-rock prettiness on "Through the Static," a breathy, midtempo jaunt that finds him singing, "First chance encounters hung from picture frames, fight through the static, burn it down for kicks and games. Don't let the girl down, you're the last of your kind." Of all the songs on the disc, "Through the Static," is the closest thing to breathtaking there is. Equal parts intimate, reflective and distinct, "Static," is the kind of song the band can rest its laurels on.
Eighth track "Safety in Numbers," is an atmospheric ballad that's poignant, touching and utterly gorgeous. Tailor-made for a movie soundtrack or the closing credits of a TV show, "Safety in Numbers," has a stately grace that's evocative, tender and nothing short of brilliant. Two of the album's surefire highlights are ninth track "The Aviator," and tenth track "The Stranger." The former is a shimmering rocker with plaintive vocals and stirring guitarwork that sounds like something that could have landed itself on X and Y; whereas tenth track, "The Stranger," is an epic, overtly bittersweet ballad that's built around Calaba's candid confession, "These days I feel like a stranger inside my polythene skin."
A Time For Lions ends with the yearning, piano yarn "Sunrise Ends," a cinematic and sparse testament to the band's admitted maturity. Dripping with the well-heeled polish of a band that knows their way around the studio, A Time for Lions is the sound of a collective unit taking one tremendous step forward. Equally adept at writing sensitive ballads and soaring rockers, Stars of Track and Field are a surefire powerhouse destined for larger audiences. Aided by crystalline production, this is a victorious record that's hopeful, cathartic, and confident. If this doesn't turn some heads, then Lord knows what will.
$4 this week here. its good but real different. i usually don't listen to stuff so poppy. i felt at times it would appeal way more to a chick than me. it's no centuries but it's still good. in bright fire is one of the best.