Single Review: Starship Emo - "(side a)"

Starship Emo - "(side a)"
(2017 Self-Released)

Cincinnati's a humble city, littered with the quirks and charms of any good metropolitan era, yet too insecure about its own draws to tout them. It's where the Reds -- the country's first-ever professional baseball team -- have called home since 1846, rooting themselves so firmly into local culture that Opening Day is considered an unofficial city holiday. It's where "ghost signs" -- advertisements from the 30s and 40s painted onto brick architecture that have faded into spectral obscurity -- haunt urban decay like attractive birthmarks. It's where natives swear by noodles, hot-dog chili, and shredded cheddar cheese, all layered together in the same bowl.  It's where -- for whatever reason -- most folks care more about where you went to high school than what you did afterward. 

Cincinnati, Ohio is an emo city. It's the emo city. It's wrapped up in its own, personal nostalgia, one that seems impenetrable to outsiders -- the sort of history one can take pride in, but can't extol without having to explain why they put chili on noodles or what they find so compelling about a ball club that hasn't won a world series in 27 years. The truth isn't self-evident, and neither is Midwestern emo. It's complex, introspective, and pretty, once you've entered the proper state of mind.

Starship Emo's grimy lo-fi soundscapes peel from brick like withering paint. They're their hometown's distilled spirit, wired through an old Casio and pummeled with 808 kicks. The duo's latest single, "(side a)", is a hip-hop cut as fresh and unassuming as the morning's cool haze of condensation and avian chatter. Keyboard chords stretch out their creaking limbs across the muffled thump of low-pass filtered percussion -- each snare hits with the force of a thrown pillow. This is music to hit snooze to, cool and inviting as laundered bedsheets beneath the AC unit. 

Jacob Miller's distorted vocals top the beat like fondant, likely powdered with a tasteful pinch of autotune. The gloomy blend of mumbled melodies and crackling production borrows cues from both Teen Suicide's "haunt me" and Ski Mask the Slump God's "Gone", trimming each down to its most whispery elements. What remains is a hieroglyphic impression of sound -- not a ghost sign, but a ghost song. "Don't hate me", pleads Miller, more out of habit than in a fit of passion. Those words stretch out across the factory's weathered siding, once splayed in vibrant orange, now wilted. The phrase spans the windshield of your car just long enough to register, marinating in your head. By the end of your commute, they too will fade into the memory of a tune worth replaying -- a landscape snapshot of the city skyline.