ALBUM REVIEW – “Leave Your Mark” by Stars In Stereo

Some music undoubtedly sounds best in certain environments. Pop punk becomes a thousand times more appealing in the summer sun; a lot of EDM only makes sense in a dark, crowded room at maximum volume; hell, Limp Bizkit sound like the best band in the world if you’d had enough to drink. The kind of immaculately produced, chorus-oriented ‘hard’ rock that Stars in Stereo ply their trade in can fall one of two ways – the best artists of the genre make songs to blast out of a PA to a rabid festival audience, while many lesser groups who put bark before bite end up producing work so polished and obvious it sounds better suited to quiet radio background music. Far too often, the songs from Leave Your Mark fall into that latter category.

Not always, mind – the ever-so-subtle tinge of darkness and In This Moment-style ‘edgy’ vocal parts of the title track make it far and away the best song on the album, and an example of how good the band could be. There are other whispers of promise – the arresting electronic-laced intro of ‘Turn Me’ and fun stuttering guitar parts on ‘Vacancy’ show that high production values aren’t always there to hide under-par music. But far, far too often, Stars in Stereo sound like a faceless, soulless facsimile of a hundred other American radio rock acts. ‘Not a Shot’ is a decent enough song in its own right, but lacks the grit to sound really convincing; ‘Fair-Weather Friend’ suffers from poorly constructed lyrics that fail to hit the mark.

At its worst, Leave Your Mark consists of inferior echoes of other songs. ‘FireStarter’ seemingly attempts to twist the riff of Foo Fighters’ ‘Times Like These’ into a heavy rock stormer, and doesn’t quite pull it off. The album’s nadir comes with ‘Fall Forward’, an attempt at a ‘My Immortal’ style piano-driven ballad with a far less interesting central melody and no real fresh ideas.  Much of what Stars in Stereo write is enjoyable in a ‘background music’ sense, but has neither the exceptionality nor the intensity to mark them out from similar-sounding groups. The term ‘style-over-substance’ is used far too often in the modern music world and even here would be somewhat unfair, but obvious, overdone songwriting approaches and an overbearing production fetish do obscure a frequent lack of good ideas.

Leave Your Mark isn’t a complete failure, or entirely devoid of merit– several of its songs have either flashes of greatness or a fun pop rock chorus, and vocalist Bec Hollcraft is a natural talent, if not the finished product of an A+ vocalist. It may well see the band achieve significant success thanks to its familiarity and obvious capacity for radio play. What Stars in Stereo do has nonetheless been done many times before, and been done significantly better – as spotlessly constructed as it is, this is an album perhaps better suited to floating harmlessly out of a desktop speaker than melting the faces of an arena crowd.

Rating: 4 / 10

[Michael Bird]

‘Leave Your Mark’


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