So everything’s kinda sorta interrelated this week. The piano connects “Starlight Town” to “And So On” (upbeat now rather than downcast) and Goldenboy front man Shon Sullivan used to play with Elliott Smith, bringing us back to Harper Simon. As for the unexpectedly potent Billy Joel melody echo at 0:48, while that doesn’t directly couple with the week’s other songs, it does relate to an overarching theme on Fingertips, as true this week as most: that music doesn’t have to “break new ground” to be both good and, still, in its own way, new. Sullivan himself is big into this idea; indeed, he has coined a term for it: “The New Familiar,” which, according to the band’s Facebook page, is “a genre of music of which the melodies, rhythms, & arrangements of pop rock songs are reminiscent to those of the past but blended in such a way & paired with a brand new sound & attitude.”
While his coinage may not catch on, and the syntax can use some work, the underlying credo is a sturdy one. Cultural critics can wring their hands about music somehow not being “new” enough anymore, but in the end such an attitude is closet nihilism, and nihilism is a dead end. We’re alive now and there is absolutely no reason to assume that we have collectively lost the ability to create worthwhile music, and no reason to assume that to be worthwhile, music can’t sound, well, familiar. “Starlight Town” is a smart, crisply-crafted tune, with a central piano lick, some hard-working violins, and an elusive air of the late ’60s or early ’70s about it. I’m finding something about the mix to be delightful, maybe in the way it manages to seem at once blurry and sharp, and how that circular piano line functions somehow as both the song’s teaser and its cornerstone.
Goldenboy is based in Diamond Bar, California, an enclave in the greater Los Angeles area. You’ll find “Starlight Town” on an album called (you got it) The New Familiar, which came out in November on Los Angeles-based Eenie Meenie Records. And, as the last knot in tying the week’s selections together, this one too is available via the good folks at Magnet Magazine.