Thursday, September 27, 2012

Too Familiar

Strange Familiar.  Chasing Shadows.
Krian Music Group, 2012.  Strange Familiar:

Strange Familiar is a pop band from Cuyahoga Falls and formed in 2006. They’ve become a bit of a television darling; their songs have been featured on popular shows like CW’s Vampire Diaries, ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and mtvU. Their sound is a soft piano and guitar pop fusion with layered vocals.

But unlike their previous work, Chasing Shadows falls short. It was a difficult album to engage in, something that I attribute to it comprising eleven agonizing slow songs with little lyrical creativity. Not a single song stood out as the feature. All of the work blended together and blended too well into the genre for it to be noticeable.

Songs like “Run Away Heart” and “Shelter” have a 1998 Sarah McLachlan quality but the vocals are so layered and ethereal that they become distracting and dull. That alone may be the downfall of the album. There was no upswing or jam to it; a total lack of catchiness so nothing sticks after it has been consumed. This album would have a difficult time finding an adult audience because it has so little range. Some of the piano work helped break up the monotony but many of these tracks just lack innovation. Songs like “Being Me” and “Where I Belong” could be teenage angst anthems if they hadn’t been so flat. Every song topic has already been covered and made this album feel superfluous. “Being Me” tried to employ a bit of a R&B backbeat but it wasn’t enough to break the rigid mold.

The trouble lies in the ornamentation of the vocals. All of the players in Strange Familiar are good independently but when they come together it fails to wow. Kira Leyden has a great voice but the Enya/Sarah McLachlan notes that are supposed to be “ethereal” and “haunting” are overused and strip Leyden’s voice of its originality or power.

Lyrically the album is a mess. Songs like “Redemption” and “Alibi” explore no new territory, push no boundaries, dig no depths, and left me wondering who the target audience was. I’m a pop enthusiast, especially piano-pop, and yet Strange Familiar had me walk away from their album with nothing. The intimacy of the songs felt forced and lacked polish.

Chasing Shadows will fall short for Strange Familiar’s fans. It’s creatively disappointing and takes no risks.

Track List:  Run Away Heart, Falling Back to You, Being Me, Shelter, Unwanted, Echoes, Brace for Impact, It’s Easier to Walk Away, Redemption, Where I Belong, Alibi.
Personnel:  Kira Leyden (vocals, piano), Jeff Andrea (guitar), Frank Freeman (bass), Nicholas Sainato (drums).

Lauren Parker

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