Major Stars

Roots of Confusion Seeds of Joy

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Since their formation in the late '90s, Boston-area psych-rockers Major Stars brought aggression to the often subdued and rural landscape of improvised underground rock. Growing from abstract experimentalism in their nascent days to spaced-out bliss with their band Magic Hour that directly preceded Major Stars, core members Kate Biggar and Wayne Rogers charged out of the gates with an amped-up, muscular assemblage of guitar solos, gritty grooves, and acid-damaged rock sounds. Their sound was in line with both the architects of 1960s Bay Area psychedelia as well as the overdriven Japanese guitar psych bands who followed like High Rise or Les Rallizes Dénudés and shifted shape over the next two decades as different players and vocalists came in and out of the fold. Tenth studio album Roots of Confusion Seeds of Joy is another strange and remarkable chapter in Major Stars' evolution. Still cut very much from the same fabric of guitar-centric psych-rock that their earliest material was, the seven songs here are pushed into the red in terms of both performance and production. Apart from a trio of guitarists trading solos at every turn, the rhythm section is on full boil for the duration of the album. Even relatively mellower pieces like the thoughtful "Echo" quickly build into high-power jams. Newly added vocalist Noell Dorsey adds an even deeper personality to this phase of the group's development, with soaring vocal harmonies imbuing the onslaught of guitars and fuzz with confident, driven melodicism. "Out in the Light" is a shining example of this, with Dorsey's hazy vocals guiding the band's stoner rock riffing to a brilliant closing where her self-harmonizing recalls the most optimistic moments of '90s space rock. Dorsey's vocals add an uplifting element to the sometimes-depraved acid damage that Major Stars' earlier catalog could tend towards. Led by her powerful vocals, "Spun Around" sounds somewhere between mid-'70s private press acid rock and the bleary, dreamlike melancholia of Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins. These stargazing moments are offset by a darker tension on tracks like "All for One," and rendered uneasy by one of the many unhinged guitar solos that waits around every corner of the album. By no means a throwback to any style or scene that came before, Roots of Confusion Seeds of Joy finds Major Stars asserting their uniquely powerful voice throughout, culminating in the prolonged burn of album closer "Dawn and the Spirit." At this point in the band's storied creative journey, they turn in some of their strongest and most emotionally direct songs yet. The strength of the material, production, and spirit behind every compositional choice makes Roots both essential to any fan and possibly the best place for a new listener to dive in.

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