Listening to Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas’ Phrazes for the Young
is kind of like eating a bag of assorted jellybeans: one day you feel like tutti-frutti and the next, French vanilla. Perhaps you prefer watermelon to island punch and will only eat bubble gum when in the right mood. There’s a little something for everyone and you can’t help but love it all — even the buttered popcorn.
Set to be released on Nov. 2, Casablancas’ solo effort sounds nothing like a Strokes album save for that all-too-familiar, hypnotizing smooth voice, which is now juxtaposed against futuristic synthetic-pop beats rather than a classic rock sound.
Strokes fans, even if you’re expecting a garage-rock album, don’t be disappointed just yet. Despite differences from past works, it’s hard to resist this eccentric medley of new songs.
The album opens with a deceivingly eerie keyboard in “Out of the Blue,” but quickly transitions into a catchy, percussion-heavy tune that leaves toes tapping. Despite the cheerful tune, Casablancas sings, “Yes, I know I am going to hell in a leather jacket / At least I will be in another world, while you’re pissing on my casket,” a contrast emblematic of the versatility of the album.
“Left & Right in the Dark” also has heads bobbing, but until Casablancas’ voice comes into the too-peppy “Left & Right,” you half expect a tweeny-bopper channeling the likes of Miley Cyrus to make a debut.
“Ludlow St.” shifts the mood and opens with a serious baroque melody that becomes comical as Casablancas sings, “Everything seems to go wrong when I stop drinking.” A Western-like tune is layered over the cathedral-inspired anthem, drowning out the ornate introduction and adding to the ironic humor of the song.
Phrazes for the Young
culminates with “Tourist,” a song that layers ethnic Middle-Eastern sounds with the futuristic tone of the rest of the album. Hints of rock and even a lone trumpet in the background create a holistic and uplifting melody.
“Everywhere I go are the tourists / But if you stay with me I’ll always be around,” Casablancas promises.
While the album may be stylistically diverse, Casablancas is not creative in ending his songs. Nearly every song on the album either fades out slowly or cuts off before coming to a conclusive finish, leaving listeners wanting more despite lengthy songs.
What makes Casablancas’ work stand out is its eclectic assortment of songs — album single “11th Dimension” is worthy of impromptu dance sessions while “4 Chords of the Apocalypse,” set to a waltz rhythm, is the type of song you want playing in the background when you’re sitting back and relaxing.
The album’s multifaceted nature is what makes it so universally appealing. From catchy to melodic and from rock to cultural, Casablancas has really hit it with the young and the old in Phrazes for the Young
— Contact Alice Chen>