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The Needles The Space

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Album Review

Straylight Run's self-titled 2004 debut was an intrepid attempt to break out of the claustrophobic, navel-gazing clutches of emo. Since co-founder John Nolan's old band Taking Back Sunday was instrumental in defining one of the most distinctive genres of the new millennium, it was both a brave and a necessary stab at carving out a new identity. The Needles the Space attempts to make the same break, with mixed results. It's not quite an emo album, but neither is it particularly good. Nolan's sister Michelle takes a more prominent role here than on the eponymous debut, sharing the lead vocals, and harmonizing on almost every song. Her breathy, little-girl voice works well on pop-oriented songs such as "Still Alone," but is no match for the dynamics and passion needed for the adolescent soap operas of "How Do I Fix My Head" and "This Is the End." John Nolan's sonic palette has expanded considerably here, and glockenspiel, accordion, and clarinet augment the usual acoustic guitars and pianos. They are used particularly effectively on the lovely and pensive opening track "The Words We Say." But too often these songs take on the histrionic qualities that doom Dashboard Confessional albums and high school diaries alike. "We'll Never Leave Again" and "First of the Century" sink under the weight of lyrical and musical bombast, the hyperventilating choruses vying with the swelling guitars. There are moments of clear-eyed honesty, and even a bit of self-deprecating humor. "Take It to Manhattan" proclaims "I've had it up to here with all these songs of self-imposed unhappiness," and the delightful "Still Alone" adds "Another complaint/High maintenance complaint/Oh, shut up." Sadly, the band needs to take its own advice more frequently.

Biography

Formed: May, 2003 in Long Island, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

In the early 2000s, emo rock outfit Taking Back Sunday was steadily gaining popularity among a new generation of punk rock fans, due in part to the dynamic songwriting and vocal team of Adam Lazzara and John Nolan. However, as their powerful debut, Tell All Your Friends, kept gaining momentum, restlessness among bandmembers grew as well, leading to the eventual departure of guitarist/vocalist Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper. Regrouping together under the name Straylight Run, the two completed the...
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The Needles The Space, Straylight Run
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