Thursday, July 17, 2008

Streetlight Manifesto - Somewhere in the Between

Streetlight Manifesto - Somewhere in the Between

Streetlight Manifesto is a third wave ska band lead by Tomas Kalnoky which first gained prominence with 2003’s Everything Goes Numb, then lauded as a breath of fresh air for a continually stagnating genre. Four years later, they returned with Somewhere in the Between, a mature, thought-provoking album in a field of music that has long since ceded mainstream relevancy.

What makes this album great is the introspective and intelligent manner in which it approaches its subject matter. Kalnoky is not just trying to throw together a bunch of clich├ęd phrases, add horns and call it a day. Instead, he delves into his topics, refusing simply look at any issue from a sole point of view (And I won't claim to believe the things I read / Black books or agenda magazine / I'd rather see in shades of grey). On this record, the themes range from the follies of pride, the past, and what to do with the present, all delivered through the wistfully mature voice of Kalnoky himself.

As for the music, all kinds of instruments abound here, with a relative plethora of different sounds being showcased on this album. Saxophones, trumpets, and trombones are all used in all sorts of pitches and harmonies, with the guitar varying between acoustic work and a deeper, heavier tone. However, the horns are not used simply as a prop, a verifiable gimmick as they are in so many other ska acts. The horn sections here weave up and down throughout songs, escalating into deafening climaxes that exude the bittersweet feeling that permeates the more pensive songs on this album. Not only do they compliment the themes and subjects being sung about, but they are used to help define them.

One of the most impressive things about this album is the lightning quick changes of pace between different tones, as shown to its greatest degree in "The Receiving End of it All". This is both a result of expert composition as well as strong musicianship to achieve such clean transitions at such a breakneck pace. And while the Streetlight Manifesto may retain the jumpy, accessibly poppy style that ska is known for, there is also a large enough amount of variation to appease the critics of modern ska. Simply put, this is quite easily one of the best albums the genre has ever produced, and one that remains entirely accessible for those who have no prior experience with ska.

Somewhere in the Between

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