The second studio album by Shannon Hawley, “Starthrowers,” is a memoir in song that pays tribute to caretakers who performed the courageous and often unacknowledged task of loving. The album’s anthemic choruses and haunting vocals, particularly the way the word “ocean” is pronounced, make a lasting impression. The songs explore the bittersweetness of life, death, and the ones who had to grieve to understand what they loved.
Hawley wrote the songs while travelling from her hometown through various locations, including Brooklyn, Ithaca, Argentina, Vermont, Los Angeles, California, and Costa Rica, before returning home as the world collapsed around her. The album draws inspiration primarily from her own life and the lives of her ancestors, as well as women’s stories.
The production quality of the album is excellent, with a wide dynamic range and skilful use of the stereo field. Nekter Gun, who also served as the album’s producer, incorporates sparse crashing guitars and layered electronic and synth accents with nods to EDM. Hawley’s clear voice and dedication to storytelling shine through in the bold choruses. The unique style with which Shannon Hawley sings her words is infectious, to say the least. She sings certain phrases with a haunting knowing, the way the word ocean rolls out of her mouth, the sometimes lulling but mostly visceral waves. And the way she comes down on the word bones reminds us of what we are made of.
Starthrowers is a hidden indie-rock gem filled with genre-redefining music
“Starthrowers” features ten tracks, including a remastered version of previously released songs such as “Mercy,” “Our History,” and “Walk Each Other Home.” The album is led by the title track and also includes “Lights in Holland,” “Riverine,” and “Aunt Honey.” “Bones, Blood, Saltwater, and Song” is one of the standout tracks from the album. With a driving rhythm and well-written narrative, this particular track is indeed a hidden gem. Be that Shannon’s soaring vocals, complemented by gorgeous harmonies, or the lush instrumentation filled with overdriven guitar chords and pounding drumbeats, “Bones, Blood, Saltwater, and Song” is filled with excitement and feelings in every nook and corner. A true indie-rock classic by the Jersey-based singer-songwriter.
The album would fit nicely into movies that embrace the bittersweetness of life and death, such as “The Tree of Life” by Terrence Malick or “Amélie” by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Additionally, the album’s wide influence of musical genres from blues to jazz to country to rock and even EDM, makes it well suited for a fun animation movie which touches the tangent of ethereal dramas. Perhaps we can hear “Starthrowers” in one of Pixar’s future instalments.
In summary, “Starthrowers” by Shannon Hawley is a poignant and introspective album exploring love, loss, and grief themes. With excellent production quality and skilful use of various elements, the album is a testament to Hawley’s dedication to storytelling and her craft. The artist is definitely the next big upcoming act to watch out for in the New Jersey indie rock scene.