Ten years ago, Chris A. Cummings was described as a “Toronto music scene secret.” That may have been the case with his former project Mantler, but in the decade since (after changing his nom de plume to Marker Starling) he’s earned no shortage of acclaim from both fans and critics, alongside some high-profile co-signs.
One long time admirer is Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, who first recorded his song “Deep Background” for her 2017 album Find Me Finding You, and now performs on the breezily longing first single from Marker Starling’s upcoming album High January. Director Colin Medley’s “Waiting for Grace” video, filmed during Stereolab’s recent stop in Toronto on their world reunion tour, features the duo trading smirks and a captain’s hat as Cummings sails away from the city in a pastel sunset.
The silky sound of High January, produced by Sean O’Hagan (The High Llamas, Stereolab), swaps out the Wurlitzer electric piano and vintage drum machine of Marker Starling’s last album Trust An Amateur for fleshed out full-band piano-pop. At the centre of it all is Cummings’ voice, with a soothing, low-key delivery that recalls Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan or João Gilberto. It’s so universally appealing that he has even become the singing stand-in for a character in the popular anime TV series, Carole and Tuesday. words / j locke
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