Hello, this is Zach from Places (Tuesdays at 9 PM), today is October 31st, 2016, and this is my first ever album review. It took them three years, but Portland indie-pop band STRFKR have finally put out a new album. It was definitely worth the wait. Being No One, Going Nowhere easily stands out within the band’s discography as their most consistent album. From the first track to the last there is a clear objective– to make one continuous flow of smooth, bass-driven, melodic music. As I mentioned in my episode of Places focused on the Pacific Northwest, I believe STRFKR to be the absolute masters of melody. There are multiple tracks off of each of their albums that will have you humming along for days, with Being No One, Going Nowhere being no different. The old sounds of STRFKR are certainly still there to be heard, with “Satellite” feeling like it could easily have come off of their sophomore album Jupiter, while “Maps” sounds like it was taken straight out of their self-titled debut album. Despite this, this album definitely has its own, original sound. The three singles released beforehand, “Never Ever”, “Tape Machine”, and “Open Your Eyes” all have a very catchy pop sound. Anyone of those could easily sneak their way onto the top of the charts, at least in the indie world.
Like I mentioned earlier, the bass is essential to this album. The strong hooks that you will find yourself dancing to are most likely going to be coming from the bass this time around, not the synth, something you’d expect from STRFKR in the past. It feels like an evolution from 2013’s Miracle Mile, where they also used a significant amount of bass to get a groovy feeling (see tracks from that album such as “While I’m Alive” and “Atlantis”). The difference here was that the songs were mixed in a way that allowed for a much more audible sound in the vocals. Something I’ve noticed in a lot of their earlier albums was that the vocals were often difficult to distinguish from the synthesizers. This time, not only is there more clear annunciation from singer Josh Hodges, there is also clear audible evidence that the mixing and mastering processes have been done in a way to get the lyrics more understood. Despite this, there are still some problems with the mixing. “When I’m With You” is missing this mixing, with the vocals being a bit hard to pick out. Just like their third album Reptilians, the incredibly strong start eventually peters out, with the last four tracks of this album being slightly forgettable. “Maps” never feels like it goes anywhere, leaving some listeners potentially wanting more. The titular track also leaves a sad end to the album. Its trills are a nice touch, but the lower amount of mixing leaves more to be desired. Overall though, the album is a huge success for the band, and will be easy to listen to for both experienced and casual listeners of STRFKR.
Tape Machine – A quintessential opening track, it welcomes the listener to the album quite well. With stinging lyrics about what is presumably an ex, the song easily fits in with the rest of their fantastic opening tracks. 8/10
Satellite – A very groovy bass line opens this song up, and an equally smooth guitar chord progression gives this one a 70s feeling. There is clever word play with “shadow light”, “satellite”, and “show me light’. 7/10
Never Ever – An instant hit, this song has a vibe of something you’d hear in a montage for some sort of roller skate park. The best mixing on the album by far, the chorus is a masterpiece of studio work. 9/10
Something Ain’t Right – The sharp, staccato notes in the chorus have an 80s feeling to them, and the small drum trills were the personal highlight of the album for me. 7.5/10
Open Your Eyes – My personal favorite. The song has a hook that you will find yourself singing for weeks on end. The lyrics are a great coming-of-age tale, and the song overall has a very optimistic feeling. 10/10
Interspace – Just a transitional piece, but it is great to see STRFKR go back to their roots by using the audio clips of Alan Watts. It felt very nostalgic and the music was a great spacey wave of mystery. 6/10
In the End – A song that takes a few listens to truly get its brilliance, it is basically one continuous groove from start to finish. The guitar solo is a nice touch that isn’t often heard in a STRFKR song. 7/10
Maps – I’m not sure about this one. It has a great melody, but nothing happens with it. It feels underdeveloped, but I do get what they were trying with it. It is possible nothing else could have been added to this track. 5.5/10
When I’m With You – Not the best mixing in my opinion, but it does manage to still have a catchy enough chorus to get any listener bobbing along. The quiet whistle in the back is a great touch. 6/10
Dark Days – The synth in this one has an 80s sound to it, it feels like more of a song off the album Jupiter. It has a light and airy feeling to it, but with some sort of slightly dark undertone. 5.5/10
Being No One, Going Nowhere – Perhaps STRFKR’s take on a more toned down sound, it feels similar to the final track on The Strokes’ Comedown Machine, “Call it Fate, Call it Karma”. Not the best song to end an album in my opinion. 4/10
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