The fifth studio album from Britain's Starsailor, 2017's All This Life is a sophisticated, organically produced album that nicely balances the expansive lyricism of their early albums with the robust stadium rock they embraced during the mid- and late 2000s. Still centered on the passionate warble of lead singer/songwriter James Walsh, Starsailor are a band caught somewhat out of time. Influenced by a combination of classic rock acts like the Beatles and Pink Floyd, they also draw easy comparisons to contemporary artists like Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, and Coldplay. Bursting onto the scene in 2000, they appeared just after the hype over Brit-pop bands like Oasis and Blur had begun to dissipate. After the release of the highly anticipated Phil Spector collaboration Silence Is Easy, the excitement surrounding the band cooled and Starsailor were left to move forward in a more discreet fashion, and in the process, develop their songwriting skills and studio savvy. Produced by Embrace guitarist Richard McNamara, All This Life is Starsailor's first full-length album of new material since 2009's All the Plans. The extended hiatus seems to have worked for them, as they've come up with what is easily their most mature and balanced production to date. Cuts like the dynamic "Listen to Your Heart," with its orchestral flourishes, and the moody folk-rocker "All This Life," with its echoey piano accents and hooky, effusively delivered chorus, grab you from the start and beg for future spins. There's also a deft level of stylistic growth here on tracks like the Bowie-esque "Take a Little Time" and the steamy '70s soul number "Caught in the Middle." Of course, they still know how to write a yearning ballad, and here we get one of their best in the dusk-toned "Sunday Best." Built around a delicately articulated acoustic guitar pattern and marked by Walsh's sanguine, potent yawp, the evocative heart-wrencher builds slowly to a spiraling, Floyd-worthy ending complete with a female backing chorus and a storm of guitar atmospherics. All that and you're still only halfway through the album. Thankfully, the back half is just as compelling, full of impactful rock anthems like the gospel-inflected "Blood" and the organ-steeped, Rattle and Hum era U2-sounding "Best of Me." Ultimately, Starsailor have been around long enough to earn veteran rocker status and All This Life, with its perfect balance of emotional gravitas and buoyant lyricism, is an album worthy of that status.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar