Podcast tile for 'This is Love' and album cover for Starchild & The New Romantic's 'Language'

Love prevails on our podcast playlist with a broad look at this most personal and universal emotion. And it continues right into the music with Starchild & The New Romantic falling hopelessly in love with the 80s.

This is Love

There’s a bit of a theme emerging here. Last week I declared my love at first sight for Swipe Left Swipe Left and its tales of first date disasters from Tinder. Today I’ve fallen for This is Love which is at the other end of the dating spectrum.

This is Love recounts stories of love. Real love.

While Swipe Left isn’t exactly a cheap date, it’s intentions are clear. This is Love knows the art of romance and it woos you into a long-term relationship, with all the emotions that come with that.

The first episode is called The Run and begins with the solo voice of the storyteller, David, explaining why. He wanted to go for a run in Central Park New York, but he didn’t want to carry his keys with him, so he asked a stranger sitting on the grass to hold them for him. The rest is romantic history, which is retold with love.

Editing an audio story is usually done with a story in mind. Parts of interviews, sometimes single words, are moved around to help tell the narrative. Sound effects, music and the narrator or interviewer also help to tell the story.

This is Love manages to weave in one more element – it seems to be edited around emotion. There’s a bunch of tales that express joy, followed by a bracket of wonder, and then a grouping of stunned lost-for-wordness.

One of the most powerful tools in This is Love is the use of silence. When the host asks David what his love looked like when he first saw her, we’re forced to wait in silence as he draws breath and allows that memory to fully form in his mind. The answer is also beautifully authentic, unedited and stumbling. Pure honesty.

Another charming aspect of This is Love is the broad definition of love. This is David and Jessie’s story, and they had two daughters, who also describe their experience and part in this love story.

This is Love is created by the producers of the award-winning podcast Criminal, with three producers, a sound engineer and a few other helpers and is part of the PRX network.

With that in mind, you won’t be surprised that not all episodes turn out like David and Jessie’s. Another episode details the relationship of a spider. That’s right – no people, just spiders. Although there’s a palpable sense of love for spiders coming from the spider expert.

Lynne Cox describes her relationships with whales that began during an encounter with a baby whale at the age of 17. There’s an author who has written 120 books about the same romantic encounter. And there’s stories about the love of home.

Bob Marley once asked, ‘Is this love’ while Van Halen asked, ‘Why can’t this be love?’. This is Love doesn’t provide an answer to either question, but instead explores those and many more questions about something that is so personal and universal at the same time.


Starchild and the new Romantic ‘Language’

It was the cover that first got me. A side-on picture of a man sitting in an Eames moulded plastic chair, dressed all in white, with a long dangly earring, a light moustache, goatee and trim hair against a plain red background. There’s an analogue 80’s phone in front of him and white Converse high-tops behind him.

The stylish dude reminds me of Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, or Dave Graney, or my mate Jeff who rocks a killer vintage suit. I’m sure he’s modelled himself on a different kind of style icon, but like my examples, this is a guy who can carry the look of another time and own it.

Then there’s the sound, which also seems to come from the 80’s. The album begins rolling up like an old reel-to-reel gaining speed with a muted guitar rhythm, synths and backing vocals. It’s like Rufus and Chaka Khan got the band back together.

Starchild reminds me of the hours I spent listening to my Walkman with the covers over my head and tuned into late-night FM radio (I would have been a terrible kid with an iPhone – no sleep at all!). I can picture my first ghetto-blaster and if I listen carefully, there’s the faint sound in the background of my mum telling me to turn the music down.

The second song has a spoken word intro that leads into a falsetto vocal and guitar that is very, very reminiscent of Prince. The purple one is strong in this one and if you heard any of the album in passing, you could be forgiven for thinking you were hearing something from ‘Dirty Mind’ or ‘Controversy’.

I was immediately carried away to my first school camp during the time of Purple Rain. I had no idea what it sounded like when doves cry, but I was pretty sure I wanted to find out!

Put the headphones on or turn the speakers up loud, and it becomes clear what’s going on. There’s a modern R&B feel to ‘Language’ which is heavily influenced by the style of 70’s soul and early 80’s disco. It’s even got an old-school album feel about it, moving through moods and styles seamlessly across 14 tracks.

Starchild & The New Romantic is actually Bryndon Cook who has been writing songs for Beyonce’s sister Solange, amongst others. At 24 years old, he wasn’t’ even born when most of the style he’s adopted was around, but he’s done a spectacular job of bringing it to life. I’d love to see the record collection that he grew up with.

I always feel guilty when I go for the nostalgic sounds, or the new album from the oldest band. Surely, with so much new music available to us and absolutely no difficulty in tracking it down or listening to it, I should be able to find something new and exciting.

But this is new and exciting and nostalgic. Bryndon’s done more than create a tribute album or simply sampling the sounds of another time.

The more you listen to ‘Language’, the more the sound becomes Starchild’s alone. It’s a pleasure to listen to and a highlight on the office playlist.

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