by Jessica Parker
Back in 2002, singer/songwriter/guitarist John Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper left their screamo band Taking Back Sunday. They immediately formed Straylight Run with Nolan’s sister, keyboardist Michelle, and drummer Will Noon. With such a massive underground following for Taking Back Sunday, Straylight Run soon had a fan base, and they hadn’t even released any songs yet. Cut to 2004, and after displaying six demo songs on their website, they finally released their debut album, which proves them to be far more than just the scraps of another band.
Straylight Run smoothly resonates with fierce songwriting and unbridled creativity. The album, filled with haunting songs, begins with their most depressing, named “The Perfect Ending.” The black cloud lifts in the second song, “The Tension and the Terror,” which isn’t about a suspenseful horror scene, but rather the suspense of making your first move on a date. Probably the only completely happy song in the bunch, it effortlessly combines Nolan’s anxious vocals with Michelle’s own sweet singsong on backup, and the fast-paced, relentless drumming of Noon. Though usually used for a classic piano sound, in “Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs,” the keyboard starts a pumping (almost techno) beat, and Michelle takes the lead vocals in another bright spot on the album.
The intricacies of each song demonstrate the talent behind this band. Rarely is such good songwriting found on a debut album, especially from ex-members of a screamo band. The lyrics definitely attest to Nolan and Cooper’s negative experience with Taking Back Sunday, with such titles as “Another Word for Desperate,” “It’s for the Best,” “Sympathy for the Martyr,” and “Dignity and Money.” And although Taking Back Sunday lived on and made a name for itself in the mainstream this past summer, Straylight Run surpasses their talent with subtle sophistication.