Top 5: Starfield - EP
Starfield is a young band from Canada named after countryman Bruce Cockburn's classic tome "Lord of the Starfields." The band plays an infectious, hook-laden, atmospherically adventurous brand of alternative CCM rock that transcends the (sometimes justified) prejudices toward its genre. While they seem to be regarded among their peers as a "worship" band, they stretch that subcategory to the breaking point and annihilate it with carefully crafted songs that are vulnerable, honest, and — while unquestionably rooted in Christian faith — never go for easy or hollow platitudes. The members of Starfield created and tested their sound over a couple of years playing churches and festivals and on two independently issued releases before getting to EMI. Producer Matt Bronleewe (Jars of Clay, Natalie Imbruglia) crafted a lush soundscape with the band's rooted twin guitar, bass, and drum sound, augmenting the core instruments with keyboards and strings in places without losing any of the quartet's rock & roll punch. Tim and Jon Neufeld write worship songs that are deeply personal; they come from the quiet spaces, from the places we hide and nurture inside ourselves, and they spill over as raw need and a blatant, poetic willingness to transcend. When Tim Neufeld sings, "I'm desperate to know you Lord" over a swirling batch of strings and dreamy acoustic guitars on "Over My Head," he sings over his doubt and desolation as well. He understands the trappings of life in the physical realm and knows that while on the planet, he cannot escape them either. He finds the crack in his own heart where the great kabod in the Hebrew scriptures, the "glory" of God, becomes something unmistakable yet incomprehensible. And it breaks down all logical notions of shame, blame, hatred, and indifference and replaces them with an unspeakable mercy. Earlier, on "Love Break Me," as acoustic guitars shimmer and slip, Jon's electric fills in the lyric as it speaks of a submission to divine love so pure and full it cracks the heart of the singer and opens him to say "yes" to whatever comes next. The emotion in Tim's vocal is not desperate; it is ecstatic, and the words fall from his mouth like clear water running in a cold brook. Ultimately, Starfield is an album that, because of the awkwardness of its vulnerability and the beauty of its craft, stands on its own as an honest expression of faith and perceived truth, and invites listeners to know of what it speaks rather than beating them over the head with it. Recommended.