Starhead

Escadrille (The Wow Signal Music Company)

Escadrille, the debut album from Denton's Starhead, captures a riveting combination of Ira Wile's passionately delivered poetry over contemplative, hushed accompaniment. It opens with a recitation of Solomon and closes with "Our Revels Now Are Ended" from Shakespeare's The Tempest over quiet violin and guitar droning—none-too-subtle reminders that the lyrics are the priority here.

As for those lyrics: They occasionally get a bit dense as words spill out of overstuffed verses. More often, though, the subtle backing of violins, E-bowed guitar, trumpets and flugelhorn provide a hypnotic, narcotic contrast to Wile's vocals and minor-key acoustic strumming.

"War Damn Eagle," a soldier's regretful recollection of battle, is the only time the band reaches too far. The martial snare drum and "Taps" melody played on the trumpet drives the military theme into the ground, a rare lapse in the musical subtlety. But the powerful lyrics—alternately vengeful and ambivalent—overcome the slightly cheesy backing.

"Flood," the haunting story of musicians scrambling to protect their sheet music and play together one last time, and "Coda," a duet with Sarah Alexander about lovers voicing their mutual attraction through metaphors, stand out among the disc's best. But perhaps the top honor goes to a cover of Songs: Ohia's "Lioness," with Wile shouting out the final "Can't get here fast enough" with the weary conviction of a desperate man over distant trumpets and deep-reverb electric guitar.

 
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