Three years since their last album, and four of the five members of The Strokes have released side projects, unless you count fatherhood for Nick Valensi, then you’re batting five for five. The most recent of these projects is Julian Casablancas’ solo LP, Phrazes for the Young. This album is perhaps the most ambitious of all of the Strokes’ side projects. It released on November 3rd in the U.S. and a deluxe edition is available on iTunes, which features three bonus tracks. It is worth noting, for any late night comedy fans, that one of these three bonus tracks is a cover of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today,” as performed by Horatio Sanz, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, and Chris Kattan on Saturday Night Live.
What makes this album stand out is the complexity and layers of the songs. The shortest song on the album clocks just a hair past four minutes, giving Casablancas plenty of time to make his songs as elaborate as possible, which he takes full advantage of. He squeezes as many elements as possible into each, from catchy pop hooks to even a classical fugue-style moment in the track “Glass.” Casablancas take show cases a taste for more than the usual rock band lineup of instruments, making full use of a variety of synthesizers. The album is laden with a variety of sounds. While sometimes such complexity, of both style and sounds, can weigh a song down, Phrazes for the Young comes out very effortlessly and sounds natural throughout.
Part of what makes this album sound so natural is the fact that it seems like the perfect next step for the Strokes’ front man. There are many moments that sound as if they were lifted straight from the band’s 2006 release, First Impressions of Earth. But at the same time, Casablancas is exploring territory that it was perhaps not possible to venture into with the Strokes’ rock band format. The basis of many Strokes songs are still present as a base, but are used mainly just as a jumping off point. The album at its most basic is still a pop album. The songs still have a structure, which may vary as far as complexity, and it seems Julian tends to bring things back to a relatively normal place, even in his most experimenting moods. But, that being said, this is one of the densest pop albums of the year, and it warrants the repeated listens most people are bound to give it.
Key Tracks: “4 Chords of The Apocalypse”, “River of Brakelights”, “Glass”
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-U
W = Poor
W-P = OK
W-P-G = Good
W-P-G-U = Great!