Mark Huff’s album Stars For Eyes has been, for me, the perfect playlist of indie-rock and country fusion, offering both the grit and storytelling of Americana, alongside of some superbly immersive soundscapes and unforgettable melodies.
From Prison Door through the title track, onward with Carolina Blue and into Big City Down, I found it impossible to sit and write, as the music just works beautifully in letting you escape and calm down after a long day. Everything from Huff’s voice to the scenes and ideas he lays out before you introduce precisely the kind of warm, inspiring environment within which everything starts to feel good again. There’s something very natural and honest about it all, so you can let the music weave around you, or you can focus in on the concepts – in either case, you’re far from disappointed.
On occasion the sound is so greatly eclectic that it veers off in something of a punk-pop direction. God in Geography feels akin to an accessible classic, a little Weezer-like in some ways, but with a flicker of Owl City-style electronic keys. Nightingale follows and brings back an organic mood with the crisp strum of an acoustic guitar and a piano-lit folk-rock backdrop to match. Huff offers yet another uplifting few minutes of melody and music.
Heart Beating Without You seems like a different type of song to all that came before, this soft-rock or indie-ballad aura emerges, a gentle, almost whispered melody, gradually accompanied by some additional vocal layers, all driven quite hypnotically by a thick and fitting drum-line. Flickers of piano keep the structure colourful, and the build-up sees things explode into something passionate and memorable.
I Know You Don’t Want My Love is a total highlight for that classic country and Western vibe, alongside of a beautifully gentle vocal delivery and a few, specific and thoughtful, honest lyrics. Burning Letters afterwards injects a certain Jimi-esque flair into the process – a funk-driven, stylish piece of music with a simple country-style bit of songwriting. Then you get the provocative and poetic Albatross, an entrancing and musically full track that satisfies and seems fit to accompany a journey – a drive, a train trip. A personal favourite, that descending hook-melody connects with ease.
Bringing the project to a close is the atmospherically cool Almost Like The Blues, a soundscape that takes its time to surround you, offering vintage vibes with a crisp, organic finish. Then you get the lyrics, and the clear Leonard Cohen aura emerges – this majestic cover proves to be a brilliant way to close down the project. A live show from Mark Huff and band would make for an immensely enjoyable evening.