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Sophomore Slump? -- The Needles the Space

Posted by: Adrian Villagomez (05/13/10)
Do you think Straylight Run's The Needles the Space is a sophomore slump or comeback of the year? We've pitted two staff members against each other to debate its merits on whether it will live on as a worthy successor or fall into the dreaded sophomore slump category. Read the justification for each in the replies and feel free to post your own thoughts.
    
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 102.
08:29 PM on 05/13/10
#2
Adrian Villagomez
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ProThe Needles the Space is the sound of a band reaching its potential.

When Straylight Run released their first demos on the internet in 2003, eager fans embraced the new material and awaited an official full-length release from the band. But the self-titled album that came next left many of those same fans underwhelmed. The production was off-putting, Michelle DaRosa’s track “Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs” felt largely out of place, and the new versions of the demos lacked some of the gusto of the raw originals. It wasn’t a bad album, but as The Needles the Space proved, the band could do much better.

On The Needles the Space, the aggression that fueled so much of John Nolan’s previous material is replaced by a thoughtfulness that goes beyond simple lovesick longing. With “Who Will Save Us Now”, Nolan presents a society ruled by corrupt politicians who are as selfish as they are powerful. It’s a clarion call that offers one simple solution: think for yourself. Following the theme of exposing societal flaws is “How Do I Fix My Head”, DaRosa’s wonderfully sincere decry of the notion that females must attain a hollow kind of physical beauty. The mood is somber and the oddly appropriate percussion slowly builds as DaRosa directs a message to all women, including herself: “How do I make them see / without it all they’re lovely?” This kind of songwriting depth elevates the album to a higher creative plane than the band had previously achieved. But that doesn’t mean the music is pretentious or lacks Straylight Run trademarks. Nolan still belts out his raspy vocals when emphasizing a point (the best examples being “Soon We’ll Be Living in the Future” and “The First of the Century”), and DaRosa’s voice is still beautiful. There’s even a bit of fun spontaneity to be found on DaRosa’s bouncy track “Still Alone.” It doesn’t match the tone of the album (not unlike “Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs”), but hearing DaRosa cut loose alongside jovial horns is the perfect kind of happy relief to keep the album from feeling too weighted.

Sadly, The Needles the Space turned out to be Straylight Run’s final album before DaRosa left the band to pursue a solo career. Line-up changes are a reality for just about every band, but changes inevitably lead to thoughts of what might have been. With The Needles the Space being such a strong step forward for the original Straylight Run, the future was wide open.

ConWhat in Sam Hill happened to Straylight Run?

Using gauzy layers of pianos, trombone and accordion, the Long Island quartet created a lush tapestry of ambience, introspection and downright oddity. Allowing Michelle DaRosa (nee Nolan) to step into the spotlight, the entire performance wobbly vacillated between quirky chamber pop and plodding piano balladry. The only problem is none of it is that sincere or deeply affecting. Oh sure the lyrics are strong, but that's no surprise.

The real problem is the lack of urgency and passion. The nocturnal and woozy landscape is far too heavy-handed and strangles the album from ever really taking off. Every album needs a peak, a place to ascend to. Aside from the stirring "We'll Never Leave Again," there's never any sense of an apex. No can deny the harmonic construction or the airy melodies that dot the landscape of The Needles The Space. The track listing and the band's incessant slowbuilding rhythms is another story. It's perfectly alright for songs to crawl and slither across the speakers, but for an entire hour? Come on.

In the end, listening to The Needles The Space is like taking a bus ride from Buffalo to New York City and waking up in Syracuse. Sure you've gone somewhere, but you're still a long way from your destination.
08:29 PM on 05/13/10
#3
Adrian Villagomez
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Vote in the poll, but discuss your thoughts here.
08:36 PM on 05/13/10
#4
xtheaudition
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i didn't even know they released this album to be honest.. i just remember the ep & their first full length. oops.
08:37 PM on 05/13/10
#5
Keagan Ilvonen
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I don't know if I could pick one album over the other, both are so awesome.
08:41 PM on 05/13/10
#6
Gaugzilla
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I haven't given this a listen since it first was released but I remember being really underwhelmed. For some reason, I recall it being maybe two or three tracks too long and especially being disappointed with "Still Alone" (which they debuted a year earlier, sans horns and it sounded pretty sweet).

For some reason, this just came across as really bland and, like you said, had no urgency.
08:54 PM on 05/13/10
#7
wakted152
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tnts is one of my favorite albums. its so beautiful in every way. the first time i heard it i was dissapointed but after a few listens i fell it love. theres so many small things they did in each song that just puts it on another level
09:00 PM on 05/13/10
#8
IndieKid!
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I prefer this album to the former. The first album fails mainly on having tracks that sounded overly dashboard confessionals "The Tension And The Terror" for example. Plus i love female Nolan's songs :] Especially "Still Alone".

I wish they released an album of Un Mas Dos material though, that EP was the best personally ( with prepare to be wrong close behind.. has two shit songs though... )
09:01 PM on 05/13/10
#9
IndieKid!
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tnts is one of my favorite albums. its so beautiful in every way. the first time i heard it i was dissapointed but after a few listens i fell it love. theres so many small things they did in each song that just puts it on another level
This.
09:01 PM on 05/13/10
tyramail
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i love both, but i would say sophomore slump.
09:02 PM on 05/13/10
contentloser
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I just listened to this for the first time in a year or two the other day and still loved it. I couldn't get this cd out of my car for a couple months after it came out. It almost makes me wish Michelle had rejoined Straylight instead of John/Shaun rejoining TBS, just to see where the potential this band had could have taken them.
09:02 PM on 05/13/10
Ari Christos
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TNTS is a huge achievement in creating a successful experimental indie pop record. While I do love the self-titled, TNTS showed the band's full potential. They were able to create something new and refreshing without ever having to compromise their sound or come off as pretentious. And have you heard those harmonies in Buttoned Down? Shit gets to me every time.
09:04 PM on 05/13/10
drevans18
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tnts is one of my favorite albums. its so beautiful in every way. the first time i heard it i was dissapointed but after a few listens i fell it love. theres so many small things they did in each song that just puts it on another level
maybe i just didn't listen enough. i tried really hard to get into tnts, but i just couldn't. right now, i'm gonna say slump. but thats because i just could never get into it... (i guess that's saying something then).
09:07 PM on 05/13/10
TMartin442
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I listened to it once and never again, therefore: slump
09:10 PM on 05/13/10
nickiswhatitis
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In each argument I've seen so far in this series, the staffer arguing for the slump never submits nearly as much evidence as the comeback staffer.
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