The Fashion Focus by Starflyer 59

Jason Martin is concerned with very little. He drives a lot, falls in love a lot, plays card games a lot. Naturally, as Jason Martin is wont to do, he writes songs about these things, but in proving he's not indie rock's most eccentric songwriter, he proves he's indie rock's most economic. The leadoff track on Starflyer 59's 1998 project The Fashion Focus, "I Drive a Lot", sums up the wistful daydreaming that comes from being at the bottom in five lines over upbeat, strumming acoustics and prominent keyboards. The Fashion Focus is an exit ramp off from the genuinely heavy, loungy shoegaze that separated Silver and Gold from any other album at the time. And that—is not necessarily a bad thing. Quite the opposite, actually. Chalk it up to aging gracefully, or fundamentals-fundamentals-fundamentals songwriting, but this album stands tall alongside their earlier output.

The rest of the album keeps the steady, low-key, nighttime atmosphere, though Jason reminds us that he can still choke us with walls of guitar noise on "The Birthrite" and "Too Much Fun". Some would call it out of place, and maybe that's true, but the songs are so consistent that it's hardly an issue. Elsewhere, Jason writes the finest Christmas in July song ever laid to tape ("A Holiday Song"), likens the dark to death in the catchiest way possible ("Sundown"), and gets in his traditional one awkward Christianity reference per album ("Days of Lamech"). If there's anything Jason's songs lack, it's usually endings—"All the Time" is a chorus looking for a song, and a mind-numbing refrain to match the road he's been on for the last couple of hours.

The Fashion Focus

Essential: "I Drive a Lot", "Sundown", "Too Much Fun"
Quintessential: "We're the Ordinary"
Non-essential: "All the Time"

Rating: Great
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