It’s yet another night of avoiding all of my chores and digging for some new music to soundtrack my life. My list is even more out of control now than it ever has been and I’m realizing just how far behind I’ve fallen. Time to catch up on some older submissions and first up is ‘Semi-formal’ from Strayfare. Strayfare reached out to me after seeing my review of Magazine Beach’s ‘Friendless Summer’. I loved that album and still listen to tracks from it nearly daily so I am excited to see if Strayfare’s ‘Semi-formal’ has a similar vibe. Even if it doesn’t, I’m stoked to check out this debut album!
‘Semi-formal’ kicks off with the quick minute and half-track, “Hearsay”. Although the recording quality irked me a little bit at the beginning of this track, as soon as the song hit its stride and the vocals came in, I started to come to terms with it… well kind of. The pop-punk vibe of this opening track is real. It’s a quick and punchy track that definitely lays out what may come from this band but also doesn’t give it all away.
“Cat’s Cradle” continues with the punchiness but adds length. It almost feels as if the lyrics are separate from the instrumentation. I don’t know if the balance is off or what but it really bugged me. I tried my best to look past this mis-synced element of this track but I just couldn’t. There’s absolutely potential to this song but this recording of it just isn’t for me. Things felt a little bit more for “Swing For The Fences”. There’s a definitely nostalgia factor in this track. Listening to it took me back to listening to the demos from local Des Moines pop-punk bands when I was an angsty teenager looking for that next big band to break out of the scene. I was usually dead-on as to who would break and while listening to “Swing For The Fences”, I got that same feeling. It’s not a perfect recording but it’s a perfect song.
That pop-punk nostalgia factor continues into “Really, Really Sorry” but mellows out for “Operation: Green Virtue”. This song is a gorgeous track full of softness and tenderness. Although I think the vocals could use some work, the heart is there and I’m a sucker for anything that just has a sense of heart in it. I actually really like the soft approach to this song so I was a little bit bummed as the band came back in full blast for “Cryptographers”. I spent the entirety of this track following along with the words. There are definitely a lot of words but the storytelling is on point and I feel like pop-punk songs tend to be a bit wordier than other genres so it absolutely fits.
“Black-Tie Affair” has a furious drum part throughout the majority of the track that made this track fly by. The classic guitar chords continued to give me flashbacks of my angsty teenage years. I was lost in this track, again, trying to follow along with the words but when “Schadenfreude” started, I got a bit nervous. The album felt like it was going off the rails as far as that disconnection between the vocals and instrumentation. There are points in this song where they match up but, still, I felt this very disconnect vibe between the two. I’m starting to think that this was recorded completely separately which would make sense. Again, I just wish it matched up a little bit better.
I finally got another taste of the acoustic vibe that Strayfare does so well during “My Dearest”. The muffled vocals add a little something special to this track but that vibe slowly dissipates as the album moves onto “Cosa Nostra”. This track starts off slow before moving into a more classic pop-punk sound. The difference between the beginning of this track and the rest is stark but I love that juxtaposition. A more bitter edge comes into play during “Perennial”. Each word has a bit more of a bite than the previous tracks and this aggressiveness works super well with the guitar work going on behind the vocals and the slamming cymbals.
“Still Awake” is a nearly silent piece which was a super interesting choice. Towards the end, you hear little whimsical lines of notes but it’s almost too quick to be considered a track or really give me an idea of what this track is doing in there. It does lead into the final track, “House By The Nightstand” nicely. I think this more ambient track may have been used better closer to the middle of the album. Although nothing about this album is flawless in my mind, “House By The Nightstand” ends with a sound that is so distinctly Strayfare and that makes it a perfect ending.
Okay guys, I’ll be honest, this one was rough to get through just due to the production value. That being said, putting music out there of any sort takes balls and everyone has to start somewhere. Not every band can afford mixing and mastering but every band can afford to take their heart and put it to music and that’s exactly what I got from ‘Semi-formal’ by Strayfare. There’s definitely potential here and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Strayfare.
My Favorite Track(s): “Swing For The Fences”
For Fans Of: Garage Pop-Punk
Mosh-ability: 4 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Autumn slept upstairs; Artie crept around my desk
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 4 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 3 out of 10 (strictly based on the recording quality)
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