MGF Reviews Straylight Run – The Needles the Space

Straylight Run – The Needles the Space
Universal/Republic (6/19/07)
Rock / Alternative / Emo

When I heard that I was going to do a review of Straylight Run, a thin shudder ran down my spine—I remembered them being an emo band. When I got the album and the cover had a Far East psychedelic religious montage of images, I was confused… that’s not very emo. I put the album on and their sound was nowhere near what I was expecting. Soft, sensitive, catchy, and is that a xylophone? It’s full of acoustic guitar-laden tracks, and not that one-slow-ballad-in-a-hodge-podge-of-thrashing-crap type of acoustic guitar; it’s all over the album. Was I wrong? Was this not the band I was thinking of? Then I read the lyrics: “Doing like you said, taking deep breaths/ Keeping my cool, counting to ten on my own again, trying to keep my head clear/ Go for walks, away from here, but I know I’m still alone/ Still alone” BINGO! There it is. Dress the whore up like a nun all you want, but we’ll see though the disguise eventually.

Straylight Run tries its best to push itself away from the kiddie table of emo and have some turkey with the grownups of Death Cab for Cutie and Rilo Kiley, but the insipid songwriting really proves their age. Songs like “Who Will Save Us Now” is just unadulterated crap. Then again, the band trips through songs like “Take It to Manhattan”, and that really gives the listener a glimpse of the potential that this band has. With an album covered in piano, mandolin, trumpet and many other instruments, one could easily state that it was the producers who covered up the flaws in the band’s emo ego. Not so fast, though, as it was the band itself that produced the album. So what does that tell us?

The Needles the Space actually shines at points when lead singer John Nolan’s (formerly of Taking Back Sunday) sister, Michelle DaRosa takes over and sings in her simple, babe-in-arms voice… for some reason reminding me of that girl who sang at church—she wasn’t that great, but seemed to blow everyone away, perhaps because of her passion. There is an innocence and vulnerability in DaRosa’s voice that really makes it so the listener thinks that he/she may be listening to a friends demo tape. That is exactly what I would use to sum up this entire album. It is very passionate. The music is often experimental, jazzy, almost old-world with poppy melodies and creative add-ons. They seem to have found a sound where emo lyrics fit without seeming ironic. I don’t know if that is a plus or a minus.

While in film school, (go ahead, laugh) I would be in screenwriting courses with people who would write these beautiful scenes and dialogue but their thematic content would be banal, angsty crap. That is what this album reminds me of. These kids obviously have the talent and creativity for something much more bold but they wade in the shallow end of music making. The sound has been done before and better by other bands, but what I hear on this album is a band in transition, a band on the precipice of an artistic burgeoning.

How to sum this up? If you love music, give this to your angst-ridden younger sibling as a bridge to better music. If you like this music, give Straylight Run your money and buy the album. Let the record company know that you support this. For those unsure, listen to “The Miracle That Never Came”. If you like it, you will like most of the album, but if you don’t it would be best to just walk away.