Limiting the musical ingredients you choose to work with can force an artist to consider the songs in a new light. Instead of worrying how many layers to add to a recording, a musician opting for a more stripped-back approach might focus on song choice, and the meaning contained therein.
Marker Starling's new album is limited to voice, electric piano and light Bossa Nova drum machine beats. The songs are all covers of songs from the '60s and '70s, ranging from pop ("Stormy" by Classics IV) to jazz-funk ("Would You Believe in Me" by Jon Lucien) and Brazilian Tropicalia ("Lost in Paradise" by Caetano Veloso) and beyond. Singer Chris A. Cummings' husky, smoky voice and sparse arrangements give the album cohesion and create a very mellow, Sunday afternoon sort of feel.
Press materials hype up the romance of these songs here, even if they're more along the lines of a loving family life with kids than the swooning courtship of youth-oriented pop music. The music video for title track "I'm Willing" seems to transform the original romantic partner make-up plea into a story about a father watching his daughter grow up.
Swimming upstream against lust-filled, instant-gratification culture is admirable, but one misstep might be Veloso's Tropicalia work "Lost in Paradise." Tropicalia was a movement of artistic, musical and poetic resistance to the authoritarian Brazilian military dictatorship of the '60s and '70s, and Veloso was imprisoned and exiled for his artistic expression. As such, the lyric "Death, salt, South America is my name" is a little harder for Starling to twist into his romantic family life ideal.
Overall it's a neat album, even if it sometimes feels a little watered down. (Tin Angel)