Phases and Stages

SXSW records

Phases and Stages

Starsailor

Love Is Here (Capitol) Critical opinion is divided on Love Is Here, the debut from Northern England quartet Starsailor. On the one hand, the British press has been pissing itself over these youngsters, enthusiastically throwing nominations and statuettes for Best New Band honors at the boys. Meanwhile, since the album's January stateside release, some crusty critics have written off singer-guitarist James Walsh as just another pretty face with film-school angst. The truth is that Love Is Here is a patchy album. The good songs -- the Eastern-tinged "Tie Up My Hands," the sprawling "Lullaby," the slow-burning "Good Souls" -- are really, really good. And the not-so-good songs? Well, no one said your first album had to be absolute perfection. The band's influences, on the other hand, are impeccable: traces of Buckley pater (Tim) and fils (Jeff) abound, from the group's name (taken from T. Buckley's 1970 album of that name) to Walsh's vocal homage to Buckley the Younger. It'd be a stretch to say that the players -- Walsh, James Stelfox (bass), Barry Westhead (keyboards), and Ben Byrne (drums) -- are spectacularly original in their instrumentation, but they get the job done. Don't let the lack of innovation turn you off, however. The worst mistake you can make is to write off this band as just another sappy, sentimental Brit-pop effort, because you'd miss out on supreme moments of emotional clarity that far outweigh the muddier, more overwrought mistakes. (Friday, March 15, Austin Music Hall, 11pm)

** .5

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