How many artists can you name with 14 studio albums? There probably aren’t too many. Jason Martin, the man behind Starflyer 59, not only has 14 LPs under his cosmic moniker, but he’s also released and contributed to numerous other projects such as Bon Voyage and Neon Horse. His “blue collar” approach to music (as notated in all his albums) has resulted in a prolific 23-year run in the music industry. Starflyer 59’s newest record, Slow, follows Jason looking back at all he’s been through along the way.
Slow immediately stands out among SF59’s discography due to its diverse musical palette. SF59 has gone through many styles of music throughout its long career, and each song on Slow seems to draw inspiration from a particular era. The title track recalls the patient, dreamy style of The Fashion Focus. The gritty rock-n-roll of “Hi Low” would have been right at home on I Am the Portuguese Blues. “Runaround” sounds like the hazy spirit of early Starflyer reborn again. Just to be clear, there’s no “wall of guitars” shoegazing from the Silver & Gold era, but whether you’re a fan of old or new SF59, there’s something on this record for you. On its own, the record might lack a bit of musical cohesion, but when viewed through this retrospective context, Slow finds unity.
From the opening lyrics of the title track, you’ll quickly get an idea of Jason’s lyrical outlook for Slow. He simply recounts some of the big life events he and his wife have gone through in the last twenty years. He’s never been one for profound, poetic lyrics, but it’s hard to miss the power of his simple honesty in the lines, “My kids, they grow up fast. I want it slow, so slow. My life goes by so fast. I want it slow, so slow.” “Retired” finds Jason comparing himself to his late father and musing about the prospect of retirement, which hopefully won’t happen in his music anytime soon. “Numb” wonderfully closes out the record with Jason reflecting on the passing of time in his typical melancholy fashion, asking “Was it really better back then? Were there really less problems? Or was it really that because then you weren’t so numb?”
Don’t be fooled into thinking the nostalgia trip is all soft, somber songs. “Told Me So” proudly features one of the catchiest guitar riffs in SF59’s catalog. “Cherokee” shows Jason’s surfy playing style finally at home drenched in a sea of reverb. “Wrongtime” is alive with a slew of effects and an atmosphere that hearkens back to 80s new-wave. Jason’s studio partners of Steve Dail and Trey Many on bass and drums, respectively, have now been playing with him longer than any other previous member of Starflyer’s historic career. I would contend the current studio lineup of SF59 is just as strong as the heralded Fashion Focus era. Here’s hoping these three continue making music together for a long time.
The three and a half year gap between IAMACEO & Slow is the longest break between Starflyer 59 albums. By Jason’s own admission, many riffs and even entire songs on the record have been around for years. At times, Slow feels like a garage sale to clear out some old songs in order to make room for new music. Rest assured, there’s still enough SF59 magic sprinkled throughout the album to welcome Slow into the accomplished discography of Starflyer 59.