- Waiting on Him
Our House by Stella By Starlight does what a debut album/EP should. Although it betrays the band’s flaws it also, more importantly, highlights why we should be paying more attention to them now and in the future. Stella By Starlight is a 6-piece indie-folk/acoustic outfit from Mumbai that has actually been on the scene for quite a while – since 2012 to be specific. After touring India and playing for crowds at prestigious venues, the band released their debut EP in January 2016. Our House may be a collection of only four songs but the album took two whole years to craft. It is a perfect snapshot of the band’s journey during those years, which also adds to the nostalgic and melancholic feel of the album.
It feels like Indie/Folk music is what all the hip kids are listening to these days at all their cool music festivals and it is a burgeoning genre in the Indian music scene with indie artists such as Prateek Kuhad and Nischay Parekh gaining immense popularity. This is why it can be hard to stand out when the music scene is awash with other great indie artists. However, with this EP, Stella By Starlight has made a valiant effort to do so. While listening to the album, the first thing that caught my attention was the vocals. They were just right – not astoundingly powerful but not washed-out either. The vocals were restrained, soft and soothing with just the right amount of oomph when needed.
Given, this EP is not experimental or out of the box but really, does it need to be? Our House is perfectly pleasant with songs that you can listen to on a loop for hours. This doesn’t mean that the band has played it safe either. Every song is well-crafted where all the instruments and the vocals work so well with each other. Percussion is deliberately sparse on the album and so are dramatic interludes to maintain the mellow mood of the album.
Our House starts off on shaky ground with ‘Coco’. It is a nice song, but ‘nice’ should not be the word to describe the first song on the album. ‘Coco’ is a light-hearted, piano-driven song about a beloved pet that has a ‘Mr. Bojangles’ vibe at the beginning. However, the song lacks complexity and is hence, not memorable.
Fortunately, the next song ‘January’ is an absolute gem and a personal favourite. This track is set off by the beautiful breathy vocals and appealing melody and is the kind of track I wish was the opener of the EP. ‘January’ is an acoustic track that fits the sorrowful lyrics seamlessly and just when you think the track couldn’t get any better they throw in a flute instrumental by Shirish Malhotra that is just divine.
This track is followed by another stellar song ‘Days’ where, again, the vocals shine. The vocal harmonies and backing vocals lend a dreamy quality to the song. Another acoustic track, ‘Days’ is haunting and bittersweet but picks up the tempo slightly towards the end before mellowing out again to finish on a melancholic note. It also features the harmonica that takes the nostalgic feel up a notch.
The EP ends with a heart-wrenching song – ‘Waiting on Him’. This song is more of a ballad than a folk song as for most of the song, the vocals are accompanied only by a piano. The track does get a bit cheesy at the end when the saxophone section begins but on the whole ‘Waiting on Him’ is an enjoyable, smooth ballad that works as a nice outro for the album.
Apart from the first track, which is tad cutesy and odd, Stella By Starlight has managed to create a smooth, laid-back, minimalistic debut EP that acts as a tasty amuse-bouche for what is to come. Our House is another great EP to come out of the indie/folk genre that is mature and restrained and where the sparse instrumentation and wispy vocals work very well together. The entire EP was produced and arranged by Nigel Rajaratnam so a huge shout-out goes out to him for polishing the songs so well. Judging from their debut EP, there are definitely more airy, dreamy folk tracks waiting for us in the future from Stella By Starlight.