Only a year old and Kate Starr’s three-piece band has already reached the finals of Lollapalooza’s Last Band Standing contest, opened for acclaimed shoegazers Asobi Seksu and played New York City nearly as many times as they’ve played Charlottesville. Starr has an impressive array of artsy publicity photos, and she’s built a distinct image around black-framed glasses, striped tights, and early ’90s girl-rock. With all of this, her quest hasn’t been very chaotic. It actually seems quite calculated. Kate is aiming for…well, her namesake.
But to “make it,” you need quality tunes to go with that snappy image, right? So here is Questing Through Chaos, her first EP. She makes a good choice in keeping her debut short and sweet. Production by local music extraordinaire Lance Brenner provides a crisp, full sound, and Starr serves up six numbers that prove she’s really got something.
Opening track “Little Miss Liberty” is the record’s least inspiring song, but its garage rock energy packs an appropriate first punch. With “Ruby’s Remembrance,” Starr heads in a more jangly direction, but keeps the throttle open. As the drums pound and Starr shouts “I can’t get you out of my head,” you might have that exact problem with the song’s catchy hook. The trumpet, whispers and cymbal washes of “A Short Song for Nick” provides an apt segue into the EP’s gentler side, and the crescendoing “Say Something Beautiful” follows with lyrical shifts and melodic build-ups that balance its sappy theme.
Like rain on your wedding day, Kate Starr’s new record is a little bit chaotic—don’t you think?
Starr’s final two tracks are the most promising. “Dream/Not Dream” fits its title perfectly, fluctuating between a surreal softness and a soaring anthem. The album comes to a close with “Ache,” a restrained tune that rises up out of subtle feedback, gets your head bopping, and then dissolves in the atmosphere. Though clearly a descendent of P.J. Harvey and The Breeders, on “Ache” Starr’s voice resembles the warble of Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O.
Questing Through Chaos is a solid first effort, and it will be interesting to see where future travels take Kate Starr. A big label or an indie outfit? Charlottesville or a transplant to New York? Regardless, you will likely hear more good things from this ambitious, bespectacled songstress.