Julian Casablancas: “Phrazes for the Young”

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November 18, 2009

10:54 AM

It can be dicey when a musician who is part of a band decides to embark on solo work. History shows it can be quite the hit or miss ordeal for an artist; Smashing Pumpkins fans were probably relieved when Billy Corgan gave up his attempt, whereas Phil Collins was able to find much success apart from Genesis.

This was the big question when Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas announced he would be releasing a solo album. Thankfully, “Phrazes for the Young,” the fourth side project to come from a Strokes member, is an 8-song glass of musical refreshment.

Not only is it sonically distinct from the Strokes, but Casablancas’ vocals are better than they’ve ever been. The record takes a decidedly more hook-friendly approach, but that doesn’t take away from its substance.

The tracks can best be described as catchy synth layers coupled with crafty guitar that maintains the element of rock, all with a hint of vaguely ’80s inspired vibes.

The first song, “Out of the Blue,” opens with a quirky, other-worldly electronic theme then quickly transforms into a bright guitar-laden track with a memorable chorus.

The album’s single “11th Dimension” uses an addicting trio of organ chords in the background and a pronounced foundation of beats.

While the first three tracks highlight the fusion of rock with a futuristic synth tone, the next two take an unexpected bluesy turn that gives the album a multi-faceted style.

In “Glass,” the penultimate track, Casablancas creates a plethora of sounds over which he sings several different captivating melodies. Meaning is not lost in the melodies, however, as several of the songs feature poignantly reflective and simple lyrics.

In the lead single he sings, “Forgive them/ even if they are not sorry/ all the vultures and bootleggers at the door waiting.” Taken in whole, the album is cohesive and bold but not overly alienated from the sound of Casablancas’ previous work.

This will certainly win the favor of Strokes followers and possibly attract new fans for Casablancas, considering one of the album’s only weaknesses is that it’s over too soon.

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