Personnel: Jason Martin (vocals, guitar, piano); Trey Many (drums).
Audio Mixer: Jr McNeely.
Jason Martin and his band Starflyer 59 have been though many styles and sounds over a 20-plus-year span. The 13 albums they've released have covered noisy shoegaze, ambitious space rock, swirling dream pop, earnest singer/songwriter, and sleek new wave revival territory, always tethered to the core of Martin's sure-handed guitar playing, his understated vocals, and the impeccable production and arrangement skills he's honed over time. Like most of the recent Starflyer 59 albums, 2016's Slow is a warm blend of all the styles Martin has latched onto over the years, mixed together and boiled down to something instantly familiar and reassuring. It's mostly built around easygoing introspective songs that see Martin exploring his station in life (happily married with kids and a minivan, pondering his place in the music world) in a kind of bemused, almost weary fashion. A few songs branch off from the mainstream, like the ominous gunslinging rocker "Cherokee" and the late-period Jesus and Mary Chain-inspired "Hi Low," and aim for something a little more dangerous-sounding, but these efforts pale in comparison to the gentle, slightly square-sounding tracks like "Slow" and "Retired," or the slowly unspooling final song, "Numb." Martin sounds much more at ease on those songs; when he tries to sound tough or hard, it comes off as forced, like he's a little desperate, a dad rocking out to show he still has it but only succeeding in being dorky and awkward. Better to stick to the songs that work best and stop trying to be something you aren't anymore. Martin makes a convincing chronicler of musical middle age on Slow; he really doesn't need to be anything else. Since the album is so short, and since he does try to be something else, it makes for one of the least satisfying of Starflyer 59's many albums. ~ Tim Sendra