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Straylight Run
The Needles The Space

Universal Republic Records

Sometimes the only advice someone can trust is that which comes from the little voice in their own head. The same could be said for a band, and the second full-length album from neo-emo underdogs Straylight Run is stone-cold proof. "I've had enough of all of these songs of self imposed unhappiness," is what vocalist John Nolan chants throughout the length of "Take It To Manhattan", and this album definitely cements this sentiment.

The band's 2004 self-titled debut (and 2005 EP, Prepare To Be Wrong) both boasted finely crafted songs that reeked of emotionally self-deprecating lyrical content. They carved themselves a little nook into the ever flourishing emo family tree, brooding and sculpting a sound that felt stuck someone between Sunny Day Real Estate and Nolan's former group Taking Back Sunday. With The Needles The Space though, it seems that the band is ready to move from their comfortable and well-worn hibernation den and step out into the fresh air. Where there once were melancholy ivory keys and subtle harmonies, there are now chimes, circus horns and even an accordion (on the jubilant opening track "The Words We Say").

An unfamiliar listener who has yet to become accustomed to the beautiful vocals of Nolan and Michelle DaRosa might think that, side by side, Straylight's somber debut and The Needles The Space were created by two different artists. An experimentation with a lighter sound is evident on "The Miracle That Never Came" in which DaRosa bops across a poppy drumbeat with spitfire lyrics that reverberate within the pseudo-ragtime hoedown into which the song turns. Actually, DaRosa seems to have taken the reins on this record, leading on a good chunk of the tracks. It's a nice change and Straylight must be commended for their willingness to play with their sound so dramatically (I would never have pictured the quartet recording a song as humorously upbeat as the trumpet-laden "Still Alone").

However, they haven't completely abandoned their mellow side; the last half of the album features a few tracks very reminiscent of their earlier work. But even when some of the slower songs begin to sound repetitious, their lyrics are their saving grace, both beautiful and poetic. "We'll Never Leave Again" is an absolutely heart-swelling love song that stands out especially, with its declaration of commitment that isn't sullied with the resentment, anger or bitterness that seems to plague most songs dealing with relationships nowadays.

Using more than just their sorrow to fuel their music this time around, the quartet shows a lot of growth on this record. Straylight Run is ready to move past the college campus and finally graduate. And with The Needles The Space as their diploma they are ready to take on the real (music) world.

-Josh Page

Track Listing:
1. The Words We Say
2. The Miracle That Never Came
3. Soon We'll Be Living In The Future
4. How Do I Fix My Head
5. Who Will Save Us Now
6. Cover Your Eyes
7. We'll Never Leave Again
8. Take It To Manhattan
9. Still Alone
10. This Is The End
11. Buttoned Down
12. [Untitled Track]
13. The First Of This Century

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