Cassette Corner: Stars Are Insane - "Pop Industry"

Stars Are Insane - "Pop Industry"
(Rok Lok 2014)

As the head of one of my favorite purveyors of noise pop, Rok Lok Records, New York's Mike Andriani is in the position to set an ever-evolving standard for the other bands released on his own label. Through his solo project, Stars Are Insane, he is able to manufacture a steady output of his own music, each release venturing into a unique blend of genres, but still strictly adhering to a single aesthetic: crunchy guitars, shimmering melodies and a warped, lo-fi texture. October's split with Monogamy displayed Andriani's ability as a composer of sorts, featuring two ambient pieces that put a sharp focus on layering. Crackling keyboard drones rippled against sharp guitar gales, extremely abrasive, yet still soft and transcendent like an overly hot shower. A 7-inch record shared with Morgue Toad found him strumming minimal bedroom folk, this time offering a bare sort of beauty, his vocals raw and exposed, veiled by paper thin acoustic chords. His first full album in some time, last month's Pop Industry, displays some of his least experimental, but admittedly his most satisfying, work to date, introducing the twangy college rock of R.E.M. to the ultra-DIY ethic of Shrimper Records circa '92. The two styles make for a match made in heaven, resulting in a 20-track effort that feels neither lengthy nor overly indulgent. It's just right. On the surface, Pop Industry feels like it could be audio ripped from a random cassette Andriani found lying on his floor. The track volumes are a bit inconsistent, adding a bit of awkward charm to the album, an element that many Rok Lok bands seem to revel in. But the deeper you get into the album, the more you appreciate the album's intensity. I see each song as a collage of separate instrumentation rather than a single entity, and I feel the more I scrutinize each song, the more and more it feels like it could fall to pieces. But things always find a way of staying together, and I always grow to become a sort of acquaintance with each song by the time it's over. Pop Industry is a very friendly album and I'll be willing to hang out with it anytime there's a tape deck nearby.