Straylight Run - Straylight Run (Cover Artwork)

Straylight Run

Straylight Run (2004)


When last we met, I was reviewing Taking Back Sunday's new album, Where You Want To Be, and basically said that the breakup of the group provided at least one forgettable album.

Well, make that two. Almost, at least.

Don't believe the hype, folks. Although not nearly as close to the definition of mediocrity as the 'rival' band, Straylight Run has created a disc filled with awkward pseduo-pop, piano driven dual vocals and rather poor writing, with a few exceptions that are just fantastic. I guess it's in the same vein as Ben Folds, but I've never been a fan of his.

The album does start off very unexpected. The piano ballad "The Perfect Ending" is actually quite a nice song in a sing-me-to-sleep kind of way. Soothing vocals and ambient background noise is in. However, the thing that really hit me was the writing; I had figured since the songwriting of Taking Back Sunday took such a downfall that John Nolan had done most of it. Unfortunately, if it was that way, this album sure doesn't showcase it. The lyrics are see obvious, easy, and not seemingly fit for this genre of midtempo pop rock. I mean, I might not enjoy Ben Folds, but from what I've listened to him, the guy can write a decent set of lyrics.

"Existentialism on Prom Night" and "Another Word for Desperate" are probably two of the three very strong tracks on the album. "Existentialism..." showcases the strong points of what this band offers; the piano is excellent, the constant rolling drums are good, even the writing is strong in that 'if I was still in high school I could relate' kind of way. By the time when all the music stops except John and his piano, you really just can't complain. "Desperate" follows up with a slow and harrowingly beautiful narrative sung both by John and sister Michelle Nolan. Again, this is a song that highlights all the strongpoints of the band. The ending and breakdown seem like they could have been structured better, perhaps a little more originally, but overall it is a very strong track. It's the first real glimpse into the power of Michelle's voice, which would be fully unleased later on.

"Mistakes We Knew We Were Making" is another track that is decent, but nothing that will stand out in your memory after the CD stops in your player. It's not a bad tune, not outstanding, just a good song. "Dignity and Money" however, is not. It seems like a schizophrenic song; there's the rolling bass drum intro with a seeming looming aura of destruction, but then when the bridge comes in, the song turns into an MTV hit, and when the chorus hits it just doesn't sound like the same song. It's not really coherent, and that really turned me away.

"Your Name Here (Sunrise Highway)" is long. It's long, nice, but can get boring. At this point in the album I'm really missing Nolan's screaming voice from Taking Back Sunday. His gritty vocals are far superior to the boyish tones he produces on this CD. When I first heard this song, it was one of my favorites on the album. After awhile, it just faded away as 'just another track.' Too bad, because right after it is "Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs," a song that intros with an electronic beat and is just god awful. Although it is finally nice to hear the female vocals, this is a horrible song that I just can't stand listening to. The writing is elementary, and the structure and even the simple sound of the song are just bad. "It's For The Best" comes up next, with probably my favorite lyrics of the album about drinking too much, and much like "Mistakes..." it's a good song, not outstanding, but not bad.

"Now It's Done" is an outstanding song. The lyrics are a beautiful narrative, with the introduction painting an amazing picture; "Moving in slow like the smoke from your cigarette / Every step closer is a step that we both will regret." Michelle Nolan's voice is incredible, and there's a point 2:56 into the song where she sings at the same note as the introduction to the guitar solo, and it's probably the single greatest moment on the album, and as far as music goes, stuff like that is just great. It's just an amazing song and really is worth checking out. Very slow, very well put together and produced.

Is this album punk rock? No. In the least bit? No, except for the connection to Victory Records, and the fact this thing will get labeled as 'emo' by people who don't know any better. Should this album even be reviewed on this site? Probably not. But, everyone should still enjoy trying new music every now and then, and if you have a spare few minutes, check this album out, or at least "Now It's Done." It's not the greatest album of the year, surely not the worst, and will probably be forgotten in a few months. Plus, being the graphic designer I am, I must say that Jason Oda of StarvingEyes did a damn fine job on the album artwork, and that is always a plus.