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Brian McMurray, Harmonium, 17 mai 2006

The Eastern Stars are New Yorkers Rob Corradetti and Kaia Wong and their debut album July 5th, 1961 was recorded in the basement of Rob’s Brooklyn apartment on an 8-track as the duo took time off from their other band, Mixel Pixel.

Upon hearing the soft, circular guitar pricks and sleek strings of the first track, They Know What To Do, one could easily conclude that July 5th, 1961 is your typical modern day folk album, but delve further into the album’s 11 tracks and you’ll discover a slightly psychedelic wonderland filled with fuzzy guitars and slow, intimate, almost always beautiful melodies.

The duo that comprises The Eastern Stars obviously appreciates the male/female vocal dynamic because Wong and Corradetti share lead vocals on a majority of the tracks. A problem arises, however, in that neither of their voices is all that original or engaging. So much so, in fact, that if either Corradetti or Wong handled the vocal duties along a very numbing experience would result.

Curiously enough, this exact thing happens twice on the album. Wong is lone vocalist on The Diamonds In Your Eyes, and it turns out better than I thought it would. Her vocals are manipulated to give the impression that a duo of Kaia Wong’s are singing all the while backed by jangly guitars. The result is something fairly beautiful. The second instance where this occurs fairs a little less well, if only because this time Corradetti shares the vocal duties with himself and his voice is the less interesting of the two. Luckily, the beautiful music backing his voice lifts I Fear The Love (I Will). Its up-tempo beat and springtime violins evoke sunshiny feelings in the listener and at a minute and 50 seconds it’s hardly a criminal act.

Musically there aren’t many missteps on the album as keyboards, strings, percussion and other instruments are added and subtracted throughout with a keen sense of construct. Regardless of how emotionless the duo’s voices are, it’s hard to imagine a pair of voices better suited to the music.

Nothing worldly important happened on July 5th, 1961, but as the press info on The Eastern Stars webpage put it: it’s “a date on which everything imaginable happened: birth, death, tragedy, baseball, and slugging back to work with Holiday hangovers.” July 5th, 1961 may only be 11 tracks that stretch to a miniscule 30 minutes, but somehow Rob Corradetti and Kaia Wong have managed to ooze that sensibility. There’s nothing flooringly amazing on this album, but like birth, death, tragedy, baseball… it happens, and it’ll matter to someone.

… a slightly psychedelic wonderland filled with fuzzy guitars and slow, intimate, almost always beautiful melodies.

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