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Music Review: Starcode Shines On Debut Hum

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New York City-based power pop rockers Starcode have no record label, but created a buzz this year after promoting their self-released debut album Hum to over 100 college radio stations in the U.S., from Iowa to Philadelphia, with help from Organic Entertainment. And after wearing out the repeat button on my stereo system while listening to this whole album the past few days, it's no wonder why Starcode has garnered so much attention in recent months.

Produced by Dale Penner (Nickelback) and mastered by Adam Ayan (A Perfect Circle, Nirvana), Hum clocks in at just under 40 minutes long, with all but two tracks under the four minute mark. From start to finish, Starcode have recorded 11 strong, radio-ready rockers that never stray from their unique formula of spacey power pop.

One of the many highlights of the album, "Fine" features an unrelenting metallic groove that only rests during the chorus, and is complimented by Paul Koelbel's electronic blurbs and synths. "Crash," perhaps the most spacey power pop track on the record, starts with guitarists Chris Conti and John Delehanty mixing in some cool, quiet harmonic notes over a hypnotic phaser or chorus effect before bassist/lead vocalist Dave O'Connor chimes in with his lyrics. As he utters the first word, "Crash," O'Connor almost sounds like Billy Corgan, but not quite. And though the spirit of punk rock pervades the album, unlike many of today's young, angst-ridden punk rock and so-called "emo" bands, O'Connor sings angry-sounding phrases like "[I]f I could come back to watch you cry/To really be there to haunt you/To suck the life out of you" loudly, but without angst, calculated or otherwise.

"Another Day" has everything from the punch of punk rock to summery, vibrating guitar lines, electronic loops, and even acoustic guitars, along with a memorable, albeit short and effect-laden guitar solo. Both "Another Day" and "Crash" have been in heavy rotation at college radio stations across the country this Spring.

Other standouts include "Ordinary," with its pretty melodies and solid drum work by Dave O'Connor's brother Dani, who also pounds away on "Sunshine," which leads off the CD and doesn't waste any time showing off their power rock prowess. On "Lately," their U2 influence can be heard in its opening and closing moments, and the last two songs, "I Don't" and "More Time," have Koelbel multitasking between his Wurlitzer on the former track and piano on the latter.

On Hum, Starcode has made one of the debut records of the year thus far, and certainly adds a distinct chapter to the power pop genre. With material as well crafted and produced as this, there's no telling how far Starcode can go. And if their college radio tour this past Spring gives any indication, it's only a matter of time before commercial alternative rock radio stations pick the album up and take this band to a whole new level of success.

Starcode will be headlining a free, all-day outdoor concert this Saturday, June 23, in Guilderland, New York at the Tawasentha Performing Art Center, just outside of Albany. For more info on the band, go to Starcode's official website or myspace page.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.