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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.

Customer Reviews

now, wait...what?

Alright. A normal evening, browsing itunes in search of something jaw-dropping. See an album with good artwork. Click. Wait..? WHAT? 6.99?? You must be kidding! Oh, but iTunes is not kidding. Well, it must be horrible then, obviously. Sample a few songs...first one is average...start to lose hope...then...wait...what is this? Quality music? It's great! Purchase. Amazing. Blows your ears off. A distinctive sound woven by both male and female vocals, quite raw and breathtaking. Especially the acoustic versions. Nineteen songs for seven dollars. Plus, it's amazing. What are you waiting for?!

Think not on past loves.

I am writing this independent of all previous reviews, first off. Second, everyone else must be listening to an entirely different album than I am, considering almost everybody has given "The Needles, The Space" stellar reviews. Well, I bluntly digress: this album is atrocious. Let us begin then, shall we? The phrase "sophomore slump" cannot help but come to mind, for this is exactly what TNTS is: a serious slump into the ground for a previously great band. I wish I knew what happened. Time is certainly not the issue, since it seemed an eternity between their self-titled debut and TNTS, disregarding their EP "Prepare to Be Wrong" because it was hardly anything substantial to deal with, minus "Hands in the Sky (Big Shot)". I'm all about expanding the creative pallet, but this is ridiculous: you cannot throw away everything that made you good in the first place if you've only produced one previous full-length album. Besides, only Modest Mouse seems to be good at doing that. The topic of "heighted maturity" is also a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. If by "heightened maturity" you mean an overbearing, pathetic awareness and outspokenness for all things political, namely the war and the old song about the "young fighting our wars," then by all means stand proudly on your soap boxes. If not, then thank God you know what musical maturity really is. Politics is not a good look for the Nolan siblings at all. While on this same sort of tandem, I am sick of hearing John's sob stories about Taking Back Sunday's breakup and his bitter vendettas against Adam whomever: it's a little thing called whining, and I don't find it asthetically pleasing. Michelle Nolan's undertaking as the album's lead vocalist on most songs is also another blow to the chest. I don't know whose idea it was to let her reign free, but, I enjoyed her much better when she had only a few songs as lead, and her wonderfully haunting backing vocals. I won't knock her voice 100%, considering "Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs" and "Now It's Done" from their first album were spectacular songs, but her pieces on TNTS are horribly juvenile. Not only is her singing unbearable, the beats of the songs themselves are weird and the lyrics seem to be written by a ten-year-old. I can't help but get the feeling that Michelle is singing in a mall during these songs: that is how bad the quality is. The first five songs are nearly forgettable, in that they blend together into an overly-cohesive mess, minus "Soon We'll Be Living in the Future," which is one of the album's only three great songs ("Buttoned Down" and "The First of the Century" being the remaining two). With the start of "Cover Your Eyes" I want to scream because the song is in every way horribly bad. "We'll Never Leave Again" is droning enough to make you want to punch nearby walls, to be blunt, or scream at Nolan to shut his mouth. "Take it to Manhattan" is crap by all stretches of the imagination and with "Still Alive" Michelle adds to the stagnant air that is increasingly forming. If you're like me, you will count down the seconds until the end of "This is the End" for "Buttoned Down" to come on next. "Buttoned Down" is by far one of Straylight Run's best songs to date, and it really is unfortunate that it was included on such a subpar album. Having been teased with that song and it's video on their website for months, I expected the whole album to follow in its path, but I was sadly mistaken. "The First of the Century" takes some getting used to because it is so dense a song, but after a view listens it really starts to shine. I know it's not great to produce the same sort of sounding albums one after another, but some similarities would be great. In conclusion, for new fans of Straylight Run: you will squeal with glee at this horribly shallow (but in your opinion "great") album, and for old fans: you will be severely disappointed and will sit wondering "What HAPPENED?" and "When are they going to record another hopefully better album?"

so disappointing

I'm a HUGE fan of SLR's first album and even their EP (the video for Hands in the Sky is freaking amazing and the song gives me chills ever time i hear it!), so to say I was excited to get my hands on a copy of their new album is an understatement. Then i heard the first two track off the album and thought What the hell? SLR is making carnival music now!? The 3rd track kicked in and I was relieved to hear the old SLR i knew and loved. (hand claps rock!) but after that, the album went back to being pretentious artsy indie rock. :-( There are a couple of gems on the album, so if you like their first album, check out We'll never leave again, where John actually sings out and puts some emotion into it, and tracks 3, 11, and 13 which are decent. As for me, i'm deleteing the rest of the album and pretending they never wrote those songs. :-(


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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