Starlight Mints - Change Remains Review

Change Remains, the fourth album from Norman, Oklahoma based indie pop act Starlight Mints, is a total departure from their previous three albums. The Starlight Mints' first three albums sound basically the same; each one was a refinement of the orchestral, jazz band gone mad pop the Mints debuted on their first album, Dream That Stuff Was Made Of. The Mints strip away the organic lushness of their previous albums and purposefully rebuild their sound using electronics. The end result is a Starlight Mints album that a little difficult to get into, at first.

The first track, “Coffins 'R' Us,” boldly proclaims the new direction by showcasing nothing but drums for the first twenty seconds of the track. The previous three albums started with strings, horns, and guitar respectively, and each time it was an indicator of what the album was about. Dream That Stuff Was Made Of was a quirky orchestra album, Built on Squares was a more polished jazzy album, and Drowaton was a fuzzy rock album. Change Remains is all about dance-able grooves; it's almost like a happy trip-hop album. That may sound like an odd thing to say about an indie pop band, but there has always been great dance beats grounding the horns and special effects. This album just pushes them forward more then any other Starlight Mints album.


I would love to say this album is just like a happy trip-hop album, but the Starlight Mints are too eclectic to be pigeonholed like that. The first three tracks -- “Coffins 'R' Us”, “Natural”, “Paralyzed” -- follow the happy trip-hop formula; they have a dark sexiness that the highlights of the trip-hop genre possess. After those three tracks, the band shifts into rock mode and delivers the junky, funky “Zoomba” and the propulsive synth-pop titled “Black Champagne.” Oddly enough, “Zoomba” and “Black Champagne” are the two tracks that sound the most like classic Mints songs. They wouldn't fit on the other albums in their current treatment, but they could if the band wanted them to sound like that. After rocking out, the band turns their attention back to dance numbers with “Power Bleed,” a disco cut that sounds very remix friendly. I wouldn't be surprised if some DJ tweaked the song a little bit and added it to a club set.


If there is one misstep on Change Remains it could be “Gazeretti.” It's not a bad track, but the thing is, “Gazeretti” sounds like something the band Cake would produce. Most of the Starlight Mints lyrics border on the nonsensical, but lyrics like, “Tell me what kind of difference does it make, if you're tall or you're ugly in the face/ At least you have the vision, to spot a philly in the face,” really go over the top.


After the weak “Gazeretti” track, the Mints bounce back with the “Sesame (untie the wrath)” which melds funk and disco to produce an utterly charming track. It's the kind of track that sneaks up on you. It's not one of the obvious single tracks, but it's not filler either. The bass line bounces around giving the track an infectious quality that makes one hard pressed to sit still while listening, and it's that quality that makes the track so memorable. Allen Vest's lyrics are what put it over the top though. They are cryptic enough to sound like they mean something, and they're quotable enough to be memorable. Allen also introduces them at just the right time as well. The moment the music starts to run out of steam or get repetitious, the lyrics surface and propel the song forward. “Snorkel With a Turtle” is the second instrumental track on the album. It's an interesting track, and fits with the album, but it's really just filler. It kind of has a shoegazing quality due to the pitch shifted synths that come in and out, but it really just has a feeling of the band messing around.


The albums closes with the cabaret “40 Fingers.” A song that brings up images of chorus lines and rockettes is a fitting end to the album. It's a little too kitschy to be ranked as one of the songs to buy the album for, but it leaves the listener hooked and wanting more, which is what it needs to do.


"Change Remains" is on sale July 21, 2009 from Barsuk.



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