Bands You Should Know: Stars of Track and Field

Stars of Track and Field
Photograph: Wind Up Records

One listen to “Racing Lights”, the first single off their recent release A Time for Lions and you’ll be instantly hooked. It is a brilliant infectious rock fueled anthem, diving head first into the uplifting choruses and never looking back. But don’t be fooled into thinking this band is one-dimensional, a quick peek into Stars of Track and Field’s musical history will reveal a band with complex musical talents and visions.

This Portland-based trio, comprised of Kevin Calaba (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Jason Bell (guitar, vocals), and Daniel Orvik (drums, programming), released two independent EPs before their first full length Centuries Before Love and War in early 2007. Centuries established a new sound for the group, and won over many critics and fans alike.

Part of what defines their early sound is their experimentation with the medium and their fearless attitude. Back in 2005, then bassist Moxley Stratton decided to leave the band, and they were faced with the daunting task of auditioning a new bass player to fit their mold. In a creative spark of genius, they decided to forgo the auditions and instead replaced him with…well, basically a computer. This gave the band a distinct identity, characterized by numerous electronic sounds, irregular rhythms, and ambient noise. They’ve been described as everything from “digital pop” to “eclectic electronic indie pop” to “multi-layered pop-rock.” All of these titles fit well. And while Centuries was a collection of introspective abstract digital tunes with a very dreary ‘Seattle’ sound, it provided some hints of how their music would eventually evolve as well.

In September of 2009, they released their second full-length, A Time For Lions (which gets it’s name from a lyric in the song “The Stranger”), which mostly strays from the heavy digital sound they focused on with Centuries. Instead of low-key compositions, they have turned in favor of more straight-forward, traditional pop-rock songs, highlighted by layered vocals and occasional electronic loops. And while Centuries was a masterfully crafted abstract, electronically enhanced indie-pop record, ATFL is immensely more accessible to the everyday listener and even popular radio.

The opening track sets the bar high and the rest of the record doesn’t fail to keep you guessing as well as entertained. The creativity remains, as does an uninhibited sense of musical freedom and experimentation. The beautifully filmic track “End of All Time” was also recently featured on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, a show which has the potential to turn unknown artists into worldwide superstars — see The Fray and Snow Patrol — and features the brilliant music supervision of Alexandra Patsavas of Chop Shop. Overall it’s a very well crafted pop-rock album, a perfect melding of tempo, and a great sign of things to come.


RIYL: Keane, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, The Postal Service

Albums/Recommended tracks:

“Racing Lights”

“In Bright Fire”

The End of All Time”

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