There’s no way to describe Starlight Girls’ genre, even the band themselves left a question mark in the genre space on their Facebook page. While that can often be a little scary, in the case of Fantasm, the band’s first full-length album, it’s a good thing. The band seamlessly mixes gothic rock, disco, surf rock, indie rock, and all kinds of other stuff and makes it into a cohesive, danceable, upbeat 10-song LP. The songs are timeless, they sound true to the musical styles of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ’80s while mixing them in a way that will make you question whether this album really was written in the last few years.
It’s a struggle to describe the fantastic vocals from Christina B, Sara Mundy, and Isabel Alvarez. They’re ethereal but soulful, not the typical breathy whispers one would usually describe as ethereal. There’s a bit of a Kate Bush thing going on, especially on “La La Lune” and “Lodestar.” Even when not delivering actual words, the backing vocals work well as instruments on “Cobra” and “Intrigue.”
While the vocals add to the drama, the arrangements have already created plenty. At first I thought it was because it’s October and I’ve been creating my own Halloween party playlist, but I noticed a Halloween party sound to it with it’s dark-yet-danceable mix that brings the drama of gothic rock and new wave. “Intrigue” and “Lodestar” open the album with a Cure-like sound that would fit into the party playlist. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to notice the Halloween party potential, as a quick Google search of “starlight girls fantasm” yields multiple posts that note the same. But the drama extends way past Halloween. “$9,000,000” has big strings that are reminiscent of Bond, that string quartet of musicians who would flip their hair like metal guitarists. Even without words, “Cobra” presents a sonic scene straight out of a ‘60s spy thriller. “Hero” has a dramatic mix of tribal and video game sounds, which sounds like it could be awful, but it is actually a very catchy song. It’s like a cross between Lykke Li‘s “Get Some” and Blondie with a sprinkling of the computerized noises from Missy Elliott‘s “Lose Control.” These descriptions sound ridiculous, so you can listen to it for yourself below. “Inhibitionist” has this great dramatic surf thing going on. “Fancy” is so disco that it could be like the second coming of ABBA – and I mean that in the best way possible. Those clear vocals, that strong bass, the synth string sounds – it’s so catchy, it’s so ABBA.
The songs are pretty different from each other yet flow together as a whole well. Some of the songs were written by singer and keyboardist Christina B when she was a solo artist, while “Lion in a Cage” was written and produced by guitarist Shaw Walters. “Lion” is slower and darker-sounding than the rest of the songs, it also has the clearest lyrics on the album, and because of this different sound it does stand out from the rest of the album, but it still works with the whole. Some songs are straight disco, others lean pretty heavily toward indie rock or surf rock, but somehow the album allows for so much wiggle room between the genres. So much is mixed within songs that it all just works album-wide.
Fantasm is like a ten-course meal at a fusion-themed restaurant with vintage decor: there’s a lot of themes going on but it all works together. It’s catchy, upbeat, and it is out just in time to be the soundtrack to your Halloween party if you’ve run out of time to painstakingly create your own.