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Anchors & Ampersands

by Marker Starling

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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Luxury yellow 12" vinyl comes with companion cassette 'Bedazzled', a mini album of covers including 'Hotline Bling' by Drake and 'Give It Up For Love' by Ned Doheny.

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  • Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    Luxury yellow 180g vinyl

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

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Strong Suit 03:46
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Lost Look II 02:45
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about

20 years don’t pass for a person without them picking up some stories along the way. Just ask Toronto eccentric RNB popster Chris A Cummings – aka Marker Starling – whose own ups, downs, sorrows and successes he’s been chronicling in sunshine-sweet, romantic avant-pop songs for two decades now, each one a postcard from a different moment in his life. Anchors & Ampersands, his latest album, revisits some of the best of those tracks: a career-spanning collection of cuts dating back to 1997 that would be a greatest hits album, were it not for one twist. Recorded live with arresting new arrangements, it’s at once at a live album, greatest hits, step forward and breadcrumb trail of tales from Cummings’ last 20 years as a musician, friend and father.

“It was the summer of 2014, and I was in a very happy place,” says Cummings, who blazed trails under the name Mantler before switching to the moniker Marker Starling on 2015 release Rozy Maze. He’d just finished work on I’m Willing, a sublime collection of 1960s movie soundtrack and Brazilian bossa nova-inspired covers of some of his favourite songs. Enthused by the ease and speed of the process on that album, he contemplated further covers albums, in the guise of The Beach Boys’ Party! or Cannonball Adderley’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy before landing on an idea: what if he made an album mainly made up of covers of his own songs, filtered through his “older, more mature” current persona?

Working in his Toronto home, an 100-year-old building nestled between 1970s-builds in the city’s remote inner suburbs, Cummings began work revisiting old songs in a space far removed from the environment in which they those tracks were originally conceived. “In the ‘90s when the majority of these songs were written, I was living in my parents’ house and working for a theatre company where I had my own recording space. It was one of the first times in my life that I had my own creative space, and I got a lot of joy out of it,” he says.

Returning to songs like ‘Conundrum’ (a smooth bass glide originally released on his debut album ‘Doin It All’ in 2000 about “my teenage years, when my whole life was still ahead of me, and it seemed like I had all the time in the world”) and abandoned late ‘90s creation ‘No More Partylights’ (“about the aftermath of a party and that kind of crazy, still drunk, badly hungover feeling”) was emotional for Cummings, lending perspective to his now very-different existence. “Put it this way – when ‘Look Lost’ was written, I was at a truly lost moment in my life. Now my life is stable, with fatherhood and work taking up most of my life,” he says. “Things were bad but soon got better.”

As well as chronicling Cummings’ personal life, Anchors & Ampersands also documents major moments in the world around him. ‘Shadows and Counterparts’ is “an anti-war song written in response to the Iraq invasion in 2003,” originally recording in a slower, more languid fashion for Italian compilation album Playing The Indie Game but revived here around a sizzling ‘80s boogie beat. ‘Blue Strike The Hours’ meanwhile was written in 2011, touching on the beginning of a lurch to right wing politics that since mired the world in chaos. “It’s about a deep, insidious conservatism that’s gotten worse since then,” says Cummings.

Completed by covers of two tracks by Philly Soul Icons The Spinners and fellow Torontonian Sandro Perri, Anchors & Ampersands is ultimately “a reflection looking back on a somewhat misspent youth, a pessimism about the political scene, and the possibility of renewal through creative work and inspiration,” says the talent behind it. Listen and let it inspire you.

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released November 24, 2017

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Marker Starling Toronto, Ontario

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