Published Nov 27, 2018A soft staple of the Toronto music scene, Chris A. Cummings — the mastermind behind Marker Starling and previously Mantler — has been around in iterations, making an impact with his slow jams and minimal melodies. Trust an Amateur is the songwriter's eighth studio album, but his fourth as Marker Starling, marking a halfway point and signifying his position as much more than an amateur.
The proof is in the compositions. Lustrous vocals, a Wurlitzer keyboard and a drum machine have always been the ingredients of Cummings' craft. Having moved through a retro obsession (2017's I'm Willing was a collection of '60s and '70s jams), Marker Starling holds the past in his music, but drops fragments of where he is now. "They're cutting the concrete again at Greenwood and Danforth / Some streets are named after people and some after words," he sings of Toronto on "Mistaken I.D. / Crosstown Bulletin" — a song that delves into the album's themes of loss and change.
A jazzy hi-hat life-pulse is introduced in "Silver Morn" and weaves its way through the record: a thread of unity. "Fly Away" has sublime hooks, with the keyboard holding the song down and the lilt of Cummings' high notes reeling you in. On the title track, melodic vocals run over the piano like caramel. "Trust An Amateur" is undoubtedly sweet, a juxtaposition to "Mistaken I.D. / Crosstown Bulletin," which plays in the lower registers.
You would be hard-pressed to refer to Marker Starling as an amateur; he has shifted alongside the ever-changing Toronto with enough poise and depth to have earned our trust. (Tin Angel)