Monday, July 12, 2010
New Home - La Strada
Ernest Jenning Record Co.
SCQ Rating: 65%
New Home revolves around taking geographical conquests in order to gain those small rites of passage from the risk, and it’s a pertinent subtext for Brooklyn’s La Strada. Besides lead-singer James Craft singing through experience – he has lived on both American coasts and a few European countries – the theme is fitting for a band who’ve been musically evolving at such a speed these past few years. Their rites of passage are affirmed through the jovial striving of New Home, their biggest statement yet.
Now while some bands would carry such a tumultuous theme for its burdens – Arcade Fire’s cathartic camaraderie on Funeral comes to mind – La Strada references life’s obstacles only in passing on the anthemic ‘Go Forward’. From that opener of multi-layered vocals all arching over a stirring guitar, La Strada skips forward on friendly indie-rock pastures with ‘The Traveler’ and ‘Wash On By’; both string-laden without sapping the rock outfit’s resolve. Considering their heavily orchestrated productions, the quintet (plus producer Kyle “Slick” Johnson) manages the difficult task of keeping these compositions light and breezy. Even the more wistful ‘Julia’, a comparably bare-boned acoustic strummer, has the ideal mix of orchestral swoon to render each lyric alive.
Too bad, then, that La Strada seems composed of such content songwriters, as a touch of turmoil would really deepen the emotional impact of these arrangements. After a resonating climax of tense strings and distant vocals, ‘My New Home’ slips back into Craft’s humdrum lyrics of relatable daily nuisances and nine-to-five cravings. Musically speaking, La Strada should have more to say to compliment their instrumental prowess. Although worldly in scope, the positivity emitting from this full-length debut becomes tiring, almost as if its can’t-bring-me-down ethos is covering for an absence of worthwhile emotions to chew on. For an album to wear me down with optimism seems like a strange, super-cynical response and yet Craft’s assertion that he tests out material on a subway platform echoes of countless street-performers who lack that same troubled drive. Insatiably upbeat and sociable, New Home shows great potential but as a statement, it’s a bit one-sided.