Fantasm is an album that turns weirdness into charm. The vocals are perpetually highipitched and ethereal, every song is rife with melodic and counter-melodic grooviness, and the lyrics in the third track inform the listener that a monkey in outer space is documenting his journey in some strange monkey language. But this isn’t the repelling weirdness of that one kid in high school who thinks it’s comedy gold to fart loudly in the middle of a chemistry test. It’s endearing strangeness, like a puppy with a habit of sprinting around your kitchen and whimpering whenever it snows. Fantasm is unmistakably weird, but with strong songwriting and stylish uniqueness, it’s difficult not to love what Starlight Girls have made.
One of the mightiest weapons in Fantasm’s arsenal is its infectiously head-bobbing beats. In every song, there’s a heavy focus on movement in both the instruments and the vocals. Instead of building harmony through static chords, Starlight Girls opted to make a seven-layer dip of melodic and rhythmic passages. In “Lodestar,” the second track, the drums and guitar handle the song’s beat, while the motion of the sung melodies seamlessly holds the song together. The vocals use an upward pitch slide to cap off every couple of lines to maintain the song’s forward motion, and this constant movement keeps the listener hooked. It’s hip, groovy, and obscenely listenable.
The strangely high-pitched vocals that I mentioned earlier are (no pun intended) instrumental to Fantasm’s unique sound. A tasteful touch of reverb imbues the singer’s voice with an enchantingly ethereal quality that puts me in mind of Talking Heads, albeit with a female singer and heavier instrumental parts. The vocals on Fantasm are comfortably situated right at the intersection of Melodic Avenue and Spoken-Word Street, with piercingly high pitches exacerbating the bizareness of the singer’s semi-spoken style.
I’d intended to discuss the flaws with Fantasm, but I couldn’t think of anything major to discuss. It’s cool, it’s creative, it’s stylish, and it’s fun. Instead of being burdened by weirdness, Starlight Girls have made an album that revels in its own strangeness. It’s unusual enough that I can’t see everyone loving Fantasm, but if you’ve any interest in indie rock, or if you like Talking Heads, treat your ears to Fantasm. Starlight Girls have hit a home run while simultaneously scoring a touchdown with this album, and I can’t wait to hear what they have in store for the future.
*Content from StarlightGirls.bandcamp.com, video from Starlight Girls’ Youtube channel, and Noisy Ghost