‘Miracle Mile' shows off STRFKR's talents

by Julian Danziger | 2/24/13 11:00pm

STRFKR, briefly known in a less bold phase as Pyramid or Pyramidd, is an electro-pop band based in Portland, Ore. with the power to make me subtly rock out almost every time I listen to their groovy tunes.

Although they are often compared to the likes of Passion Pit or MGMT, their alt-synths and chill vocals produce a spin on the indie-electro genre that, head bops aside, make their music really enjoyable. Whether it's their bass guitar and snare-heavy cover of "Girls Just Wanna Fun" or their famous slower jam "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second," with riffs too catchy for words, the band clearly knows how to reach an audience.

Released this month, STRFKR's fourth record, "Miracle Mile," is a testament to its true ability and, in my opinion, is their best album to date. With 15 songs, "Miracle Mile" seems a little too long at times, but each holds its own with an upbeat synthetic loveliness that is more than thoroughly explored throughout the awesome record.

Five years have passed since their self-titled debut album was released, but STRFKR, led by lead singer and frontman Josh Hodges, has very much stuck to their electro-pop guns and, for better or for worse, has not changed its style one bit. "Miracle Mile" picks up right where the band left off two years ago with a multi-layered opening track, "While I'm Alive." The song, which was released as a single last year, is upbeat but less structured than others. With a heavy synthetic takeover halfway through the track that blends into a bass guitar meets synth riff, we are reminded that STRFKR can do whatever they want with a beat and synthesizer and listeners are going to like it.

Although the album is void of any standout top 10 hits, "Atlantis" is the best that the album offers. The song is catchy, light and a little bit weird all in the best way. Hodges demonstrates his Pheonix-like vocal talent over riffs that seem to cause involuntary foot-tapping, and although the song is only two minutes long, it demonstrates all of the band's positive electro-attributes.

Maybe the heaviest song in the bunch is "Leave It All Behind," which starts with an unnerving synthetic minor chord filled verse in which Hodges repeats "I will never give you everything, everything." The beat then drops into a not-quite dub but heavy repetitive bass synth and beat chorus that is impressively layered and edgy.

Although STRFKR's electro-pop genre may at times seem one-dimensional and counter-intuitively shallow in its mask of electronic simplicity, Hodges is able to express vulnerability, romantic turmoil and personal crises in "Miracle Mile."

The emotions of STRFKR, which sometimes hide themselves behind basic, catchy hooks and synths, come out in the penultimate song, "Golden Light."The song is a slower track that builds up with a riff that reminds me of a ballad written by the xx or another indie-electro counterpart. Hodges croons in a slightly uncharacteristic melancholy tone behind one of his trademark beats, singing, "Made of nothing / Fade to nothing / We are so alive."

Hodges draws his listeners in with his fun synth-beat combo demonstrated in the ever-so-catchy track, "Malmo," but then keeps them there and makes them process more meaningful and interesting material like that of "Golden Light."

As their phonetically pronounced name might suggest, STRFKR doesn't take themselves too seriously, despite their often emotionally complex lyrics and tunes. However, the band creates music that, if taken more seriously, can be rather profound, as well as fun and enjoyable.

"Miracle Mile" is an album not to be labeled as just another synthetic piece of work void of real musical meaning.

Although all 15 songs on the record seem to at times blend together, STRFKR is a force to be reckoned with and I would highly recommend not only this album but their entire body of work for fun electro-pop lovers looking for something deeper.