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Discovering the debut LP from Mad Denizen, Starved, is kinda like putting on Springsteen’s Nebraska for the first time. It’s one of those records that encourages late-night listening, preferably with cigarettes smoldering in the ashtray, whiskey close at hand.
Starved is primarily the work of Michael Charles, an Oakland artist who’s crafted an after-hours LP that, intentional or not, is haunting as all get out (but in a good way). Armed mostly with an acoustic guitar and his voice, Charles tracked the record to tape using a TASCAM 388 reel-to-reel machine. The audio quality of the vinyl is striking in its immediacy and clarity, likely due to the tape medium, attention to detail in the recording process and top-notch mastering/cutting job. We’ve been a bit bummed by the level of quality going into recent vinyl pressings (noisy as hell, lousy pressings, poor fidelity all around), but Starved is a winner for both the listener and even the most discerning audiophile.▼ Article continues below ▼
Lead single “Invisible City” is (and yeah, we’re using the same descriptive term twice in one review, so sue us!) haunting, like a modern update of Nirvana’s “Polly” (complete with tasteful cello).
We’re digging Starved, as if you couldn’t tell. The tunes are moody and a great Smiths alternative for when you’re feeling mad at the world and just want a comforting record to turn to. Couple that with the high-quality audio experience and killer album art, and this album definitely deserves a spot on your ever-expanding LP shelf.