Toronto’s Marker Starling (aka Chris A. Cummings) goes for smooth and soft, there’s a real niceness emanating off his person. It harks back to the mid to late 70’s early 80’s to plates full of cocaine and smooth musicians who own yachts, which might explain why the first single off High January features Marker sailing on, yep you guessed it, a yacht. Coincidence? I think not.
Marker had previously often recorded with drum machines, but for High January he roped in Sean O’Hagan (The High Llamas) as producer, who is a king of earnest sweetness which is admittedly a stroke of genius and a marriage made in heaven. It’s not totally yacht, the arrangements and sounds hark back to 70’s Californian pop and though they don’t possess the intricate whimsy of O’Hagan’s day job – they’re not far off. Marker recorded in London with his live band, though O’Hagan also contributed some instrumentation as well as some of his Stereolab friends such as drummer Andy Ramsay who also engineered and Lætitia Sadier who periodically adds vocals.
There’s something immediately reassuring about High January. The world is topsy-turvy, but Marker is harking back to a kinder gentler time, where the scariest things were the drugs we might want to take when listening to his album. It’s music totally informed by everything that has preceded it, particularly on AM radio, and Marker’s vocals and arrangements are ridiculously smooth and welcome.