Sci-fi synths and atmospheric soundscapes are likely the last things expected to be born from a self-induced desert exile, but that is exactly what makes STRFKR’s fourth album, Being No One, Going Nowhere, so irresistible. Written during a solo stint in Joshua Tree, STRFKR founder Joshua Hodges’ spawned some of his best work yet. Flowing with intricately heavy lyrics that contrast dancefloor-ready beats, this album has that typical STRFKR sound, but taken astronomically further.
The album opens with “Tape Machine.” It’s the perfect opening track filled with spacey sound effects that skyrocket you into some galactic, videogame-like world. However, you’re quickly brought back down to Earth with somber lyrics such as, ‘I know your dark side better than you think,’ showing you early on that this album has more depth than you’d expect. This interesting juxtaposition continues for the remainder of the song, and the entirety of the album.
The desert-inspired vibes shine through in the second track, “Satellite,” with its earthy bassline layered beneath stellar, sonic melodies. Modest vocals toy with themes of self-identity, while hiding beneath a playful surface feel. “Never Ever” rests on the confluence between 80s disco and modern synth-pop, quite typical of STRFKR, and quite lovable. Later on, “Open Your Eyes,” grapples with the inevitable confusion of youth beneath a carefree, dance-floor anthem that perfectly captures the feeling of being “young and free.”
The album’s intermission, “Interspace,” reintroduces the spacey sensation, and features the famous thinker/writer Alan Watts, who is a crucial staple in STRFKR’s work. As Watt’s discusses abandoning pre-conceived notions of self in order to find one’s place in the universe, dizzying instrumentals launch listeners into a Twilight zone. “In the End” expands this dark, mysterious, and spiraling sound before inviting you back into the cosmic dance party with more exuberant beats. “Maps” introduces a more mellow feel as thick, swirling synths pull you into a dreamy daze while “When I’m With You” offers a deeper, late-night dance club ambience.
This astral adventure ends with title track, “Being No One, Going Nowhere.” A relaxing, yet peculiar progression of sound meanders beneath lyrics, “You’re alright where you are, being no one, going nowhere.” The solace in the midst of confusion that the lyrics describe is strongly felt in this track with the way the vocals pair so flawlessly with the melancholic music. Ending the journey in a luminous calm, this song offers the sensation one would expect to feel while traveling through the vastness of outer space.
STRFKR’s work is exactly what you make of it. On the surface, these are upbeat, danceable tracks with a retro, yet spacey vibe. However, if you look for deeper meaning, you will perhaps find much more than you’re looking for. Themes of self-identity, confusion, and existentialism are woven throughout this effervescent indie-pop album creating something that is quite relatable to the age group it attracts. An album that deals with coming-of-age confusion hidden beneath energetic electronic music nearly mirrors the lives of us young people tackling such issues, yet searching for peace or an escape via a good time.
Despite the darker underlying meanings in STRFKR’s music, I definitely do not lie when I say these tracks are ready for the dancefloor. Last May, STRFRKR sold out the Majestic Theatre and the show was complete with a custom-made light display, booming energy, and even dancing (and crowd-surfing) astronauts. Imagine if you could throw the coolest, funkiest disco on the shimmering rings of Saturn, and you’ll get a sense of what a live STRFKR show is like. Luckily, the band is returning to the Majestic Theater on February 24, 2017 to support the new album. You do not want to miss it!!!
Album Rating: 10/10
Recommended Tracks: 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11