Maia - Pepper Stars

by Greg Spencer Rating:7 Release Date:2012-12-08

Maia are a band who labels themselves as 'sci-fi folk-pop' and, before you listen to a single track, that's already an intriguing prospect. The preconception could be that the label's just be a bit of a gimmick, and it is but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There's something really melancholic and atmospheric about Pepper Stars, which brings out a radiant and varied sound, giving the band a unique angle. This album is a load of fun, packed with of two-minute songs bursting with colour and texture. A song like 'Living in the Alligator' seems to make no sense whatsoever but, when you hear the trumpet blazing as the song reaches a climax, you can't help but be taken in by it.

Pepper Stars just has a likeable and effervescent quality to it which transcends the usual folk sounds we're used to. Lead vocalist Tom Clegg has a great voice which sounds part Scandinavian and part inhuman. On the title track, he has a spiritual sound which flows magically and fuses with the handful of instruments used on the track.

Except for the general theme of space, it's hard to tell exactly what the album is about. With any other record that would probably be a negative, but it doesn't matter on here as the feeling and instrumentation outweigh any desire for narrative or cohesion. Although, if I'd want any band to do a concept album at some point, Maia would be up there as that might be something really special.

The problems with the record spring from its lack of a personal touch. At times the record feels somewhat distant and too out-there. It's difficult to tell if a song like 'Four Angels' is something personal to the band. It sounds emotive but you just want that extra connection with the music.

Pepper Stars is an album worth listening to simply in order to experience something totally new and unique sounding to those of us who aren't connoisseurs of the 'sci-fi folk' genre. The highlights of the record come in songs like 'What Else But Earth?' and 'The Grandfather Plan', but there's more to it than a handful of songs. It's a record deserving of real appreciation and success.

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