Americana (Tooth & Nail Records)

By Robert Gruber

Layer upon layer of dense guitar, excruciating patches of feedback, plodding tempos, and Jason Martin's voice whispering inanities above it all....these are the things I know and love about Starflyer 59. Their last album (the "gold" one) embodies all those things and more--perfect music to hear while watching a lava lamp or fish in an aquarium.

But no more. Aided by the rock-solid rhythm section of Eric Campuzano on bass and Wayne Everett on drums (both from the now-defunct Prayer Chain), Jason Martin has turned Starflyer 59 from what was essentially a one-man studio project into a bona-fied band. The result: Americana, his tightest, most accessible and fully-realized album to date.

Martin still writes 2 basic kinds of songs--dynamic, mid-tempo rockers ('The Voyager', 'The Translator') and moody, tremelo-heavy slow songs (the Mazzy Star-ish 'You Think You're Radical'). The surprises here are songs like 'Harmony'--bright, grooving, sunny songs that sound like a drive by the ocean. No longer rainy inside his heart, Jason Martin almost sounds happy here. Almost.

Tearing down the artsy walls that have separated him from mass appeal, Martin's new and improved Starflyer is a bold testament to his ever-maturing talent. I'd be a liar if I didn't say I miss the noise, but I'd be a fool if I didn't say this was his best work yet.