Jason Martin, the man behind Starflyer 59, had only been making music for around 18 years before I decided to really dive in to his music. This is despite the fact that I grew up on christian music and started getting into Tooth & Nail Records bands when I was in high school. In the late 2000’s I came across Everybody Makes Mistakes in a used bookstore discount bin, and then I slowly started listening to everything I could find by Jason Martin. With every next song I listened to, his God-given musical brilliance was making itself apparent to me. Almost twenty-five years into this project, Jason Martin and Starflyer 59 should be awaiting an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Alas, the cream does not always rise to the top in the music business.
Because of that sad truth, I wanted to put together a huge tribute to this musical genius. It turns out that huge tributes are not easy to make happen in a position such as mine. I was, however, able to wrangle together some very talented writers and musicians who have been deeply impacted by Starflyer’s tunes.
I asked those who wanted to contribute to tell me in a paragraph or two about their favorite Starflyer 59 song. It turns out that certain albums, or the entire Starflyer project, are so ingrained in people that a favorite song was too difficult to single out. I decided to try not to control this project too much and allow those who couldn’t decide to write whatever they wanted. So, what we’ve got here is a blend of different styles and writings, which I think is a fitting tribute to a band as diverse and unpredictable as Starflyer 59.
Remember when you were in high school and you felt so deeply that almost every vaguely relatable song felt like it was written just for you and your teenage romance or heartbreak? I don’t come across as many songs these days that hit me in that ‘was this written just for me and my situation?’ zone. Sure, there are songs that I agree and relate with, but most are on topics that have been written about over and over and over again, so they don’t hit me quite as hard. Enter Jason Martin and Starflyer 59.
One of the things I love about Jason Martin’s songs, other than the fact that he’s a great musician making incredible songs, is that he writes a lot about his battles with nostalgia. “Was it really better back then?” It’s a question he explores in “Numb” and a notion I’m often fighting against in my mind. There’s always these wonderful memories of times past that overshadow the hard times and distort our vision of what our younger days were really like. At least that’s what it’s like for me, and it seems that things are that way with Mr. Martin, as well.
Jason seems to come to the conclusion that things weren’t really better in the past. It’s that we’ve become dull and numb as we’ve aged. So, maybe the fact that I don’t find as many songs to be ‘oh, so personal’ at the age of 34 is because I myself have become numb. If I would allow myself to feel deeply, I would also experience deeply. I experience deeply when I’m listening to this song regardless, and that’s why it’s among my favorite Starflyer 59 songs.
Eric McClanahan runs Ineverglow and lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two little girls. You find him on Twitter @ineverglow.
I always have troubles on my mind. When I listen to this song, I do what (I think) most listeners do when they hear a magnificent, heartfelt, lyric-driven composition: I relate. And deeply. “I didn’t know you had troubles on your mind,” Jason Martin croons over a tasteful, Caribbean-tinged, indie-rock gallop. “They are also on my mine.” I want to sail away from my problems but I know they’ll find me wherever I go. If there’s a way to quell them, I’ve yet to find it. If this is a test, I’m failing. Still, if I could be where I wanted to be, you wouldn’t see me.
Philip Trapp is a music journalist whose work has appeared in Alternative Press and HM Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @philiptrapp.
In Starflyer 59’s extensive catalog, “Red Tide” stands out as one of the band’s starkest songs. Understandably, the death of Jason Martin’s father in 2007 brought a more somber turn to his music, but this track arguably represents the culmination of that downcast sensibility. Lyrically, I think it’s some of his best work: “So I fold my hands and then I pray/The streets of gold, the pearly gates/The doctor says, ‘It don’t look good’/And we all cried in the waiting room.”
The classic Christian imagery in the first two lines hovers on the brink of cliché, but it’s qualified by the devastating details in the next two lines, which imbue it with a kind of universal significance. If you’ve ever sipped coffee from a Styrofoam cup in the spectral glow of a hospital waiting room with an unread magazine in your lap and the stench of antiseptic in your nose, you’ll recognize why these simple words are so moving. Having recently lost a dear friend myself, this song has been a bit of a sonic haven for me. I especially cherish the alternate lines in the final chorus: “There’s peace to come, it won’t be long/Trees of green, eternal song.” Lest we get too caught up in the reverie of the life to come, Martin ends the song with a repetition of the lines, “And we all cried in the waiting room.” As a Christian, I know there’s peace to come, but as a grieving person I also know that I have to wait for it, “so I fold my hands and then I pray.”
Cameron McAllister is a staff writer with Christ and Pop Culture. He lives in the Atlanta area with his wife, Heather. You can find him on Twitter @cammcallister7.
“Fell In Love at 22”
I don’t know if I have a favorite Starflyer song as much as just a general admiration for their whole catalogue. But “Fell in Love at 22” is a great song; just such a vibey, nostalgic jam. I love the tone of his voice in the song. It’s forlorn and tired and yet strangely hopeful.
Brett McCracken is an author and pastor. He is also a senior editor at The Gospel Coalition. You can find him on Twitter @brettmccracken.
“No New Kinda Story”
I remember my first Starflyer album being Le Vainquer, straight from Tooth and Nail mail order. From there on, I collected the back catalog material and proceeded to purchase every new album as they released and sometimes before (turns out if you knew the release date and called the local Christian bookstore, you could trick them into selling it to you early -something they eventually caught onto).
Jason Martin was a significant influence in my decision to learn guitar. I adored his sense of melody and that thick overdriven tone. Songs like “When You Feel Miserable” and “The Dungeon” were among some of the first I ever learned and to this day, have greatly shaped my playing.
When “Everybody Makes Mistakes” dropped, I immediately fell in love with “No New Kinda Story”. They had steadily been departing from the early “wall of sound/shoe-gaze”, but doing it quite well, and this song was just a captivatingly beautiful piece that entranced me. The pulsing eighth note rhythm over sailing keys was the perfect accompaniment for the melancholic words, something Jason has always chosen so sparingly yet with precision. The breakdown into the bridge is one of my favorite contrasts in a pop song to this day and as a whole, remains my favorite starflyer song, however difficult a task the decision has proven to be.
Cara Dziak is a singer and musician in the Ohio synth-pop/darkwave band, Seaside Holiday. You can find them on Twitter @aseasideholiday.
I couldn’t come up with a definitive favorite song. So I did the next best thing; I chose my favorite song from one of my favorite albums. Decision making at its finest. Anyway, you know that scene at the end of every angsty film with a feel good climax from the 90’s? That one that tugs at all the nostalgic bones in your body? Where the main character drives off into the distance while the camera pans out for a wide shot? Well this is the kind of song that would be playing to neatly wrap it up. “No New Kinda Story” is an amazing song, to say it plainly. It’s an incredibly upbeat tune, without being out of step, that sets you up for an otherwise moody album. Simple chorus, simple refrain, and still sonically moving enough to give you the feels. The more I think about it, the argument could be made that this is in fact my favorite Starflyer 59 song.
– Wes Cain
Wes Cain is a photographer and a blogger for The Just. You can find him on Twitter @yowescain.
My friend Gavin introduced me to Jason Martin, aka Starflyer 59, in 1995. This was in the days before listening stations or streaming, when you would buy music blind, with only a review, record label or interesting artwork to go by. Gold stood out to my middle school mind as something completely foreign and alien, and the sounds (up till this point my music listening was a strange mix of classical, 70’s hippie “Christian” music, and movie soundtracks) were like someone cracking my brain wide open. I was in.
Americana came out next, which I devoured, and was probably the first record I ever actively anticipated a release date for. However, with the release of their next record, The Fashion Focus, I had what I consider to be my first experience of musical transcendence.
Gene Eugene, the producer on the album, had first worked on Americana. With the additional lineup of Wayne Everett and Jeff Cloud, Eugene had slyly begun stripping away the shoe gaze layers of Silver and Gold to create something singularly Starflyer, but somehow more accessible and refined. The Fashion Focus built upon the work that was begun on Americana, but took things to a whole new stratosphere. Gone were the massive walls of sound and buried vocals (minus a brief return on the epic ’Too Much Fun’) and in it’s place was a beautiful, almost Beatles-eque melancholy dripping with inspiration and new sounds. Every song was a world unto itself.
The Christmas of 1998 in Williamsburg, VA was one of the coldest on record. There was a huge storm headed our way and we were bracing for the worst. The only two gifts I had asked for that year were an aqua blue Phillips portable CD player from Kmart and the new Starflyer record that had just come out in October. On Christmas Eve the worst of the storm had hit and I woke up to a house without power or heat. What I did have though was a brand new Discman (with fresh batteries) and a copy of The Fashion Focus. We were without electricity for a week straight as the ice weighed down the power lines in our neighborhood. For days on end I would sit on the couch in our living room, by the fire, headphones on, staring at the white frozen landscape of my front yard, and pour all of my teenage melancholy into a sonic world that transported me to a different place all together.
Jason Martin was the blue collar love song singer who saved my suburban soul from a musically banal wasteland and started me on a journey that I continue to this day. He was, is, and always will be my first musical love and the place where everything began for me. The Fashion Focus is a masterpiece that still hasn’t gotten it’s due, and I will continue to sing its praises for as long as the Days of Lamech.
Daniel James is an electronic musician who performs under the name Canon Blue. You can find him on Twitter @canonbluemusic.
All praise and glory to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.