“The dark rolls in my dreams,” Starla Starshine utters in a melodic whisper as we enter “Bad Boys,” one of the three tracks that comprise her all-new EP Red Lagoon. A glaring guitar echoes the enunciation of every syllable – wherever Starshine goes, it follows, staying back in the shadows and hinting at an underlying danger that is ever-present from the moment we start to the second the music ceases to play. A playful finger-snapping tells us that there’s a swinging beat just waiting to come alive on the other side of the first stanza, and when we descend into the frisky, unvarnished chorus we meet that beat for the very first time. This won’t be the only chance we get to shake to the vivacious grooves Starla Starshine brings to the table in Red Lagoon, but it may well be the most carnal in nature. “Bad Boys” wraps around us unexpectedly and attempts to suffocate us with its airy, deceptively subtle rhythm, only to leave just enough life in our souls for Starshine to have her way with us in “Lover Man.”
“Lover Man” begins in a glassy, reverberating dreamlike state that is quickly shattered by the appearance of Starshine’s smooth vocals, which seem to weave their way into the fabric of the music with a decadence that rivals anything you would find in a museum of fine art. Without any sort of warning, what first feels like a modestly textured bass is amplified to an otherworldly size, crushing us under the weight of its studious lumbering. Starshine is in the center of all the chaos, but her serenading is unaffected by the modulating energy controlling the environment around her. She is confident, divinely aware in her lyrics and able to find a place for herself within the context of all the big riffs and sizzling, treble-free percussion piling on top of her. The opening salvo of guitar swells that make up the introduction to “Red Lagoon” itself is steeped in an old school psychedelic sound, but after less than sixty seconds of play Starshine transports us to somewhere that is much more contemporary by design, if not outright futuristic in its wistful use of soft vocals and brutally mixed basslines.
As the beating drums retreat to the dark cloud of silent ambience from which they came and the title track in Red Lagoon comes to a poignant and jarring halt, the lingering cry of Starshine’s voice in the fever pitch of “Bad Boys” still remains. For only being a three-track extended play, this record craters anyone within proximity of its epic musicality with an emotionally-charged, brilliantly styled rendition of modern American pop music that goes against the grain of the mainstream in every sense of the term. At no point does Red Lagoon start to lose steam or fall back on tried and true variations of themes within pop music that most of us would be happy never to encounter again. This is an original piece of music from a truly original artist who introduces herself to the masses here and doesn’t have to sacrifice any element of her songcraft in order to win us over completely.