Album Review :
One Star Story - The Empty Room EP

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Artist: One Star Story
Album: The Empty Room EP
Label: Transatlantic Records
Buy It: Amazon MP3

1. Say Anything
2. Tears Behind a Smile
3. So Long
4. Crushed Beneath the Wait
5. Simplicity of a Button
6. Love
7. Call It a Story (Bonus Track)

There has never been a better time for One Star Story to unleash their music on the world. Gone are the days of 2003, when the only current female-fronted rock groups known to the average music listener were No Doubt, whose snarky and ska-influenced singles unfortunately pervaded the airwaves about that time, and newcomers Evanescence, whose music contained all the schmaltz that their post-grunge leanings suggested. The recent critical acclaim bestowed upon Holy Roman Empire’s debut album, The Longue Durée, the success of bands with prominent female members like Straylight Run and The Hush Sound, and the massive mainstream popularity achieved by Paramore and, to a lesser extent, Eisley send a clear message to onlookers: the independent music scene is embracing its feminine side.

This is both good and bad news for bands like One Star Story. Audiences are much more likely to embrace a female-fronted pop-punk or power-pop band today than they were five years ago. The scene finds no shame in girl power today. But at the same time, independent bands are flooding the music scene. With the breakneck rise of music streaming sites like MySpace and Purevolume.com, a typical group of kids that record a few songs in a bedroom can try to make a name for themselves, and many such groups are doing just that. This overcrowding has hurt many independent bands, and One Star Story will be no exception: while they will not be written off as a female-fronted band, they will no longer be regarded as unique for it either. The success of Paramore makes comparisons to that band inevitable, and One Star Story’s music will have to measure up. One Star Story play loudly and proudly with catchy and unforgettable vocal hooks, but they have not yet reached their potential, often falling short of the intelligence and technicality that could truly put them on the map.

If nothing else, One Star Story certainly reach the crowning achievement of the power-pop genre: their music is incredibly catchy. Even if some listeners will not be able to relate to “Tears Behind a Smile” – the scenario described will be foreign to many male listeners – they should not be surprised to find themselves singing it in the shower or while driving to work one morning. The driving “Love,” which was originally planned to open the EP and probably should have done so, combines a thick, D-minor orchestration with poignant and memorable vocals from front-woman Vanessa Rose, and the end result is the best track on The Empty Room. One Star Story have pressed their advantage; it is hard to forget music with vocal lines like these.

While the music is enjoyable and memorable, however, it is decidedly flawed in other areas. The instrumentation is typical of the genre, employing an overabundance of power chords. Some keyboard and synthesizer lines are added, but they don’t have a full enough production to make the impact they should. These aside, not much stands out musically. There are two guitarists in One Star Story, but rarely are two discernable guitar parts present in the music. Perhaps the band could continue to experiment with delay pedals on the guitars; their effect is quite positive on “Crushed Beneath the Wait” and “Tears Behind a Smile.” Vanessa’s vocals shine throughout most of the release, but the repetitive fifths at the end of the bonus track, “Call it a Story,” could have been replaced with something more restrained to the benefit of the song. Also, while the uses of background vocals add to the music’s appeal, these should be cut back if they cannot be recreated live. Overall the band should strive for more technical or memorable musical parts on their next release.

The lyrics on The Empty Room are also lacking at times. While the opening track, “Say Anything,” has enjoyable verses, it is held back by its simplistic chorus: “[s]ay anything that you want. Say anything that you need” (One Star Story). Not only is the sentiment abruptly presented, it hardly seems worth saying at all. “So Long,” a remake of a song from the band’s previous EP called “Everyday,” feels empty and oversimplified compared to the original. Lyrics like “[s]o long, so long, to everything you held so dear. Your world stops here” (One Star Story) will seem trite to listeners, and the rhyming of “side” and “aside” later in the song was a flat-out mistake. Vanessa’s lyrics improve with their length, so writing longer choruses where appropriate and expanding on her thoughts will help her develop as a writer.

It seems that One Star Story has achieved their goals with The Empty Room EP. They have made an enjoyable and, to a degree, memorable power-pop album. If that is all they choose to attempt, then they will continue to succeed, but given the vast number of bands playing this style of music, they will probably earn little attention from music listeners on the whole. If, on the other hand, they attempt to grow as a band by creating songs filled with technical proficiency and astute lyrics while keeping the catchy and fun qualities they currently exude, One Star Story could be the next band to make the independent music scene wake up and embrace its estrogen. Meanwhile, many music fans will find something to like about The Empty Room EP.

Rating: 6.5/10. (And I think that’s pretty good.)
RIYL: Paramore, Holy Roman Empire, Eisley
Listen: “Say Anything” on MySpace, “Tears Behind a Smile,” “So Long,” “Crushed Beneath the Wait,” and “Call It a Story” on Purevolume.

– The Headless Horseman