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Starfield - Click to view!To hear Tim and Jon Neufeld tell it, their two independent albums were recorded strictly as keepsakes and not as any sort of fodder for a record deal. Intentions aside, the indie albums from the brothers Neufeld and their cohorts in the Canadian four-piece Starfield moved over 20,000 units and netted the group five Vibe Awards (the Canadian equivalent of a Dove Award), a Juno (the Canadian Grammy) nomination and a Prairie Music Award (for western Canadian artists) for best Christian Album. Not surprisingly, several Christian and mainstream labels in the U.S. and Canada began showing interest in the emerging quartet, which eventually inked a deal with Sparrow Records in the spring of 2004.

The Winnipeg foursome's self-titled major-label debut features its share of reference points. "Tumbling After" calls to mind the energetic, radio-friendly pop/rock of groups like Downhere and Tree63. The terse, driving rhythm and chiming guitars of "Ordinary Life," on the other hand, hark back to the post-punk anthems of U2's earliest albums. And the sugar-sweet melody and harmonies of "Alive in This Moment," while surely a guilty pleasure for those in harder rocking circles, nonetheless answer the burning question of what an impromptu worship session on the set of Dawson Creek might have sounded like.

Elsewhere, the lads from Manitoba shake things up a bit. The darting orchestral flourishes, droning feedback, and near-stream-of-consciousness vocalizing of "Over My Head" render the heartfelt song of praise gripping from start to end — an impressive feat given its seven-plus minute length. "Outstretched Hands," by comparison, adopts a semi-bluesy musical aesthetic which perfectly complements the intrinsic longing of its lyrics ("Will you see me through this valley / As the world caves in around me / Will you help me understand"). And "Love Break Me" and "Filled With Your Glory" are near-perfect fusions of power pop and modern worship sure to charm all but the most stolid of listeners.

To be fair, the Neufelds and their friends sound only marginally different from any number of other artists in the ever-growing modern pop/rock multitude. That said, the members of the Starfield collective are blessed with an impressive lyrical insight and rock-solid melodic savvy that elevates them above the lion's share of their peers. While one would have a hard time imagining herds of indie and alternative rock lovers rushing out to record stores to pick up the Starfield disc, even those in the non-pop crowd who heard the album would have to admit that few artists — pop, rock or otherwise — are producing music this consistently catchy and enjoyable.
- Bert Gangl
August 2004
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