Thursday 29 July 2021

Love is Here/ Starsailor (2001): Albums of my Life: an A-Z

  being 16 or 17 and this album just becoming part of my world. I owned it on CD and was starting to branch out a little from my beloved R n B/ Soul music interests into an indie direction. This album was suitably moody for my young sensibilities and James Walsh's voice stood out to me-- it still does, in fact.

The single 'Alcoholic' immediately drew me in with its piano accompaniment and dismal lyrics (fodder for inward-looking folk); the harmonies and arrangements spoke to me too and made Starsailor stand out from other groups of a similar ilk. As the years passed, I loved their others earlier albums such as 'Silence is Easy' and 'On the Outside', possibly enjoying some of the tracks on them even more than their debut. Despite that, 'Love is Here' is where it started and there's a vibe about it that takes me right back to 2001 and all of the mixed emotions of that time for me.

Fast forward to 2019 Victorious Festival and my youthful dream of seeing Starsailor live was finally realised! They were incredible of course. They played all the classics and some newer songs. The crowd loved them and there was much love for James in particular who clearly has a big fan base. Funnily enough, the following April (on my birthday, during lockdown), James Walsh did a live acoustic set online. It was such a treat to get to see him at a time of uncertainty pandemic-wise and he comes across as such a nice, down to earth guy too.

'Love is Here' is not one of those albums that I know huge amounts about in terms of its creation; neither have I delved into the lyrics in the intense way that I have done with other albums that I love. But I do love this album. As aforementioned, it sets a tone and allows you to sit in your sadness and hurt in a way which feels cathartic-- something much needed in a time when mental health awareness was not really championed as it is today. The lyrics are not cryptic enough to isolate you-- on the contrary, you feel held by them as you listen to tracks like 'She Just Wept' which focuses on a theme of loving someone who is going through dark times. However, I never really delved into the song lyrics back in the day as the melodies and Walsh's emotive vocals manage to convey something which is enriching enough as a stand alone.

Now, as an adult, I listen with a bit more intensity and knowing. One of my favourite tracks 'Love is Here', the title track, is painfully beautiful. It seems to speak about appreciating the love that someone has for you ('hold on to what you've got'). But there's also a level of devotion in there that could be read as unbalanced: 'if you could see the aching in me, I'd change my name in case you lost me'. Regardless of the actual meanings of the lyrics, there's some complex study of what it means to love someone in this album. 

Then there's 'Good Souls'. It felt like this was a track for the times when seeing Starsailor live over the past years. This was reflected in the comments of the live online gig where blue hearts rained down for the NHS when Walsh played this song. This more upbeat, optimistic track gives the album some much-appreciated buoyancy, I think. It holds a strong message of hope and inspiration that there are always good people out there lifting us up.

Starsailor know how to play with dynamics in their music. A good example is the track, 'Fever', where the verses give way to more intensity with Ben Byrne picking up tempo on drums and Walsh's vocal becoming louder and more passionate. This contrasts the mellow vibe of much of the song which seems to reflect the nature of letting the 'fever' of love cloud your vision. It's only when you're spurned by a lover that you see it for what it was. We've all been there.

It would be a missed opportunity not to give a shout out to a track from another album ('Silence is Easy'): 'Born Again'. On reflection, I think this is my favourite Starsailor song-- a hard call as there are many I could mention.

'Born Again' is six minutes of bliss. It takes it's time. It develops and builds to tell a narrative of someone finding peace and redemption. The strings on it are beautiful and the crescendo is a tear-jerker because you feel what it might be like to feel 'born again' and cleansed of past hurts and regrets (sins even). It makes you feel like change is possible in a sometimes hopeless world. Whilst the lyrics are laden with religious meaning, whatever your theological standpoint, it is a song for the heart.

1. Love is Here-- sweet and melancholic: the perfect combo 

2. Way to Fall-- I used to try and play the chords to this on my guitar

3. Poor Misguided Fool-- a classic

... I am feeling rotten and I need to bask in the feeling! It's ok though because 'Good Souls' softens the mood!

' If you could see the aching in me
I'd change my name in case you lost me   (Love is Here)

... deep purple fading into ochre (the colour of a healing bruise).

'Labyrinth' OST/ David Bowie, Trevor Jones (1986)
'Lucy Pearl'/ Lucy Pearl (2000)
'Let Go'/ Avril Lavigne (2002)
'Love Angel Music Baby'/ Gwen Stefani (2004)
'Look Up'/ Mark Morriss (2019)

What is your favourite album beginning with L?

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