Straylight Run

Studio Album by released in 2004
Straylight Run's tracklist:
The Perfect Ending
Send Ringtone
The Tension and the Terror
Send Ringtone
Existentialism on Prom Night
Send Ringtone
Another Word for Desperate
Send Ringtone
Mistakes We Knew We Were Making
Send Ringtone
Dignity and Money
Send Ringtone
Your Name Here (Sunrise Highway)
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Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs
Send Ringtone
It's for the Best
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Now It's Done
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Sympathy for the Martyr
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Straylight Run review

Splitting from the rabidly popular Taking Back Sunday may seem like a bad move, but Shaun Cooper and John Nolan knew that it was their only option. Armed with only a concept, the two recruited Nolan’s sister Michelle and drummer Will Noon and whipped up Straylight Run, a lush keyboard/piano based endeavor. On its self-titled debut, the band incorporates some emo cues, such as grand choruses and dramatic, self-examining lyrics. However, the songwriting is more varied than many in that genre offer in the mid-2000s. While the familiar song structures of Nolan/Cooper’s past band seep through here from time to time, the overall result is an atmospheric collection of 11-tracks that sound like the cross-pollination of Ben Folds Five, Dashboard Confessional and Mazzy Star with a touch of electronica. Led by Nolan's expressive vocal presence, as well as the piano work of his and his sister's (who also handles harmonies and the occasional lead vocal), Straylight Run ranges from melancholy ballads, through mature pop, to the occasional decision to turn up the power chords.

Opener The Perfect Ending strikes a deliberately contemplative note, its stripped-bare vocal and meaningful piano chording mood matching the hazy, forgotten memory quality of the album's accompanying photography. Another Word for Desperate and Tension and Terror are much livelier; with their shifting parts and interplay between piano, strings, and electric guitar; they're templates for making great emo in the 21st century. The quieter Mistakes We Knew We Were Making and Your Name Here (Sunrise Highway) each begin with brushed snare and gentle piano before building to undeniably urgent choruses. But they also throw some interesting curves, like the intricately layered bridge in Mistakes We Knew We Were Makingthat breaks at its peak into the chorus, or Your Name Here's striking lyrical honesty. While it's a well-crafted and obviously very personal album, Straylight Run can occasionally get a little too dramatic. But this tendency is lessened by Tool Sheds and Hot Tubs. With its whirring synths, upbeat electronic percussion and bright lead vocal by Michelle Nolan, it could be a No Doubt B-side. It's for the Best is another late-album highlight. Working with one of the album's strongest melodies, John Nolan is joined by his sister and Format frontman Nate Ruess on a chorus in the round. If you listen to just one song on this album, listen to It's for the Best.

This album has set itself apart from anything before, it could be the brother sister combination of John and Michelle Nolan, it could be Michelle's angelic like voice, or it could be the honesty that is felt throughout each and every track. Straylight Run is complete in every aspect of it. Like never before John was able to reveal all his many talents and displayed throughout every song is a combination of talent and emotion. His deep and catchy lyrics are better than ever on this record, and set to toned-down, melodic emo-rock with memorable choruses and lots of piano thrown in for good measure. Straylight Run will certainly please emo fans, but gets more points for bringing new ideas to the genre. This group is looking to create something that transcends the simple, catchy choruses and crunchy power chords that dominate emo music. Whether world domination is in their future plans or not, one thing’s for sure, they’re not going to be pigeonholed.