Starbenders' Signature Sound Evolves on "21st Century Orphan"
Whenever an artist makes the decision to change some aspect of their particular sound - whether that change be as drastic as a transition to an entirely new genre, or as simple as the embracing of a handful of new elements drawn from a more diverse pool of influences - they take a risk. Sometimes, that risk does not pay off. However, other times, it most certainly does. And with the release of their brand new single “21st Century Orphan”, hometown heroes and veritable glam rock gods Starbenders seem to have taken a creative risk belonging in the latter category.
“21st Century Orphan” kicks off in familiar fashion, with frontwoman Kimi Shelter howling angst-ridden descriptions of youthful disillusionment over a bed of gritty, driving power chords, accompanied by her bandmates each time she shouts the song’s titular lyric. Then comes the catchy, upbeat, and empowering 60’s-style chorus, which sees Shelter adopt a more subdued, melodic vocal approach. This blend of raw punk and smooth vintage pop rock will seem far from out of the ordinary for fans of the band - it’s arguably one of their trademarks - but what comes after may leave listeners feeling that they are beginning to step a bit outside of such well-trodden territory. Tension builds as the next section of the song arrives, propelled by grandiose Queen-esque electric guitar leads, before returning to the chorus and ultimately winding down into what seems to be a satisfying finish (one richly embellished with added layers of crystalline acoustic guitar, I might add). However, as the not-so-final chord fades out, the song’s true ending begins to take shape. A sinister droning synthesizer creeps in, bringing with it a slew of disquieting and ghostly layered vocalizations - soaked in reverb and continually fading in and out - as well as a quiet, haunting pipe organ, all of which come together to evoke the sense that one has just stepped into the dusty, dim-lit, and eerily empty nave of an immense and forbidding gothic cathedral.
In four and a half minutes, Starbenders explores an impressively wide array of moods and textures. Though they have, without a doubt, dabbled previously with musical ideas that are somewhat outside-the-box, “21st Century Orphan” sees them dancing gracefully from motif to motif and melding disparate sounds as they never have before. It makes for a truly exciting listen, and leaves one eager to hear more and find out what the seasoned Atlanta quartet will do next.