Straylight Run - The Needles the Space (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Straylight Run

The Needles the Space (2007)

Universal Republic

With the recent departure of co-frontwoman Michelle DaRosa as she attempts to launch a solo career, now seems as good a time as any to examine an album largely ignored by the Punknews community, and for fairly good reason. Coincidentally, it is DaRosa who creates the more captivating moments on The Needles the Space, which wouldn't seem like good news for Straylight Run as they continue on without her.

Outside of a few tracks, the biggest drawback here is how unmemorable the album is as a whole. While the compositions have become much more rich and layered than they were on the band's 2004 debut, they've completely swapped out the energy necessary to bring their songs fully to life. Though they chime, bubble, beep, echo and whir, they never rise above a feathery murmur for their entire 45 minutes of existence.

Some of that is by design. "How Do I Fix My Head" hovers menacingly, aloft with DaRosa's sighed song voice before surrendering to an unsteady bob of skillful hi-hat work and a crooning chorus. "Cover Your Eyes" radiates atmospherically for half its length sarcastically warning "We must care for these little ones / We must keep them safe / From the horrible ideas / And the people who have them / They're too young for wondering" before turning into a dry acoustic and eggshaker number. Sometimes it's painful how held back the songs feel, like "Soon We'll Be Living in the Future," which sounds like a pretty lively emo tune that instead had to be played in a coffee shop or a thin-walled apartment complex. "We'll Never Leave Again" is five and a half minutes of overproduction and boring songwriting, especially as the last two minutes are spent on drawn-out chords and single piano keys. Sure, it's a tad relaxing, but life is short! We don't need songs like "Buttoned Down" and "The First of the Century" to fill our lives with humdrum acoustic strumming and melodramatic vocals.

To be fair, there are some decent tracks on the album, the best of which is "The Miracle That Never Came," led by an upbeat, marching rhythm, absurdly catchy verse by DaRosa and backed by a brass ensemble that supports without distracting. Among co-vocalist and Taking Back Sunday alumnus John Nolan's best tracks are the piano-led "Take It to Manhattan" and "Who Will Save Us Now?", which begs "Who will save us now? / It's our life but we don't want to live it / And all you'll get is down because the people you elect to protect your best interests / Will just protect themselves and all their investments."

However, even a couple stellar tracks can't sway the monotony of this big-budget bust. While Straylight Run avoided the cliché emo pitfalls of their previous efforts and composed some fairly ornate arrangements, it hasn't made for much more of an enjoyable listen.