The Needles The Space
It takes an interesting type of person to write an album seriously contemplating life and death at the age of 29. John and Michelle Nolan are those types of people. Siblings and frontpeople of the band Straylight Run, the Nolans have put forth an impressive sophomore effort in The Needles, The Space with a little help from bassist Shaun Cooper and percussionist Will Thomas Noon. And what's more fun and uplifting than an album about heartache and politics, right?
John Nolan is no dummy. His keen ability to write introspective songs rich with smart lyrics make this album especially unique and what a lot of Straylight Run fans have been waiting for. The Needles The Space takes a lot of risks jumping back and forth as John and Michelle seem to take turns singing every other track. Continuing with even more chances, the album's progression skips from fast paced songs filled with more percussion and instrumentals than ever before to slow, wholesome tracks that make you feel as if you are sitting in on an impromptu Nolan family sing-along.
After a surprisingly slow opening track, the Nolan/Nolan team kicks it up a notch with two upbeat tracks littered with handclaps and circus-like instrumentals reminiscent of the Format's Dog Problems. The grit and drive of "Hands to the Sky" from Straylight Run's last EP Prepare to Be Wrong returns in "Who Will Save Us Now" with shouting vocals and strong political sentiments from John and Michelle seems to channel Imogen Heap or Jenny Lewis with a eerily haunting performance in "Cover Your Eyes" as the two take turns as front-person.
Half way through the record, something magical happens when Straylight Run delivers quite possibly the greatest song of their 4 year existence in "We'll Never Leave Again." Pacing is key and this track presents the sweetest, most romantic lyrics matched with flawless guitar and piano progression. Grab your Kleenexes because by the time Nolan sings "And it's your sweet, slow smile tells me, you always know exactly what it is I need," you'll need them.
The Nolans make yet another strange decision and follow the softest song on the album with a cheeky jab at emo bands in "Take It To Manhattan" where Nolan declares, "I've had enough of this self-imposed unhappiness." The straightforward writing continues into the next track "Still Alone" where Michelle delivers one of the best lines of the album, "I could write a list of people I don't miss/I'm sorry but I'm so much better off without you." Ending on a high note, acoustic driven gems "Buttoned Down" and "The First of the Century" wrap up the album in a way so good you won't want it to be over.
Straylight Run's gamble of an album pays off as their experimentation with new instruments, track progression, and further integration of Michelle's vocals lead to an overall inspiring album. Give it a couple listens and try not to worry too much about the future; it can't be that bad if Straylight Run continues to evolve as much as they prove is possible in The Needles The Space.
Release date: June 19, 2007
Rating: 8.2 / 10
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