4. Little Star (72 points)
SOUNDS LIKE: Your best friends coming over to your house to validate your feelings and let you know that you are loved.
NOTABLE VOTES: Shaky Hands bassist Mayhaw Hoons; former host of OPB's In House Jeremy Petersen; Ghost Ease singer-guitarist Jem Marie.
Little Star drummer John Value is sick—he has a cellphone picture of his mottled throat to prove it. So he's content to let bandmates Daniel Byers and Julian Morris carry the conversational weight today. But when the subject of Little Star's interpersonal dynamic comes up, Value is momentarily invigorated, keen to illuminate a bond that means a lot to him.
"The question I asked my friend when he said Daniel and Julian needed a drummer was, 'Are they nice?'" he says. "I don't want to be in a band with people who aren't people I can be friends with." Byers and Morris were the musicians he'd been looking for. "They had a connection that was clear," Value says, "almost like they were siblings."
Byers, who spent 2014 stockpiling dour solo songs before teaming with longtime friend Morris last January, felt a spark of instant rapport when Value practiced with the nascent Little Star for the first time. "It was really special," Byers says. "I've never played with a drummer that made me more excited about my songs. John is a special musician. That first day, we kinda all just knew."
That was last April. Three months later, Little Star recorded its debut full-length, Being Close, during an 18-hour session at Type Foundry Studio. The album, which Good Cheer Records released in January, finds the trio channeling the oddly complementary melancholy of Elliott Smith and the Cure. But Little Star dodges mannered reverence at nearly every turn, ending up with something bracing, vital and entirely its own. The credit can be evenly split between the three band members: Byers is an inventive songwriter capable of subtly upsetting convention; Value's drumming is a marvel of anxious energy; and Morris' two songwriting contributions, which favor anthemic catharsis over hushed introspection, add a bare and bold urgency to the somber proceedings.
Good Cheer co-founder Morgan Troper calls Being Close a "brave record," and there's something to that. Listening to Little Star can sometimes feel like stumbling into a raw and vulnerable moment shared by friends—we are cast as witnesses to an openness and a realness that is all too rare. Not only in music, but in life. The secret is simple: The people in Little Star are there for each other.
"It's about writing songs that are deeply personal and trusting," Morris says. "Not only that you can talk about that stuff and express that, but that they'll take that information and be a part of making it into a song, and want to be a part of expressing it. That's the best part of the band."
Little Star's mutual support system is already being breached by new friends. And for now, that's just fine.
"John and I were walking downtown," Byers says, "and a cab driver pulled over and he's like, 'Hey, these guys are Little Star!' It made me feel really good." CHRIS STAMM.
NEXT SHOW: March 23 at Anarres Infoshop.