Reviewed by: Geno Thackara
If Zach Braff is hard at work right now writing his next indie film to be made next year and probably released in 2021, then the soundtrack really needs to make a space for Chris Staples. His newest release Golden Age gives us a taste of that dreamy indie feel that seemed to be everywhere in the early noughties – soft-spoken, emotionally direct and beautifully lush. He can be earnest almost to a fault, sort of like that college kid you’d often find down at the coffee shop strumming and singing in a low monotone about his life and/or relationships. Instead of cloyingly self-absorbed, though, he’s refreshingly humble and inviting instead.
Staples lets it all out simply and directly, which is both the album’s strength and its weakness. “Even after all this time / you are always on my mind,” he almost whispers at one point. In other spots we get lines like “I wanted to feel close but feel so far away.” Well, what these songs lack in lyrical sophistication, they make up in simple heart-on-sleeve honesty. He even acknowledges the obviousness at one point – “How can I say / without sounding too cliché / that I want to live this day like it’s my last”? Well, you probably can’t, so these songs are the kind that just muse on those thoughts anyway and rely on you to share all the feels.
A restless mind like mine can’t help wishing for something more subtle or poetic after a while, but the disarming straightforwardness is really key to the album’s appeal. The musical accompaniment gets the same kind of spun-out-in-the-basement treatment to go along with the words: the guitar and piano sway with charm, the light percussion is perfectly low-key and the voice is often filtered like it’s coming through a haze when you’re half asleep. Golden Age is nothing if not cozy – undemanding, easy on the ears and pleasantly soft enough for either waking hours or sleeping ones.