To be perfectly honest, I only found out about Starfu*cker through their name. I figured it’d be something unnecessarily discordant and metal-y (think Nine Inch Nails’ song “Starf*ckers, Inc.”). Instead, what I heard was “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second”: three minutes of tight, quirky, dance-inflected indie rock. Now, on their third album, “Miracle Mile,” STRFKR continues in this same vein of music, while amping up the electronic aspect of their last album, “Reptilians.”
And man, are the electronics amped up. The synthesizer presence on the album is unheard of. The very first song on the album, “While I’m Alive,” starts off with a funky, electronic pseudo-bassline while a whiny, almost nasally, synth hums the hook. “Sazed” starts off with a jittery, playful beat and beefs up the verse’s vocals with yet another woozy synth.
Unfortunately, the omnipresent synths can be a little much. Not that they get overpowering in any sense, more like they get kind of stale. There are certain points, such as the intro to “Say to You” or the post-chorus of “Leave It All Behind”, where you just want to tell Joshua Hodges, the lead songwriter for STRFKR, to stop adding synths and focus on the songwriting.
But then there are the times when you notice the vitality and humanity that the synths add to most of the songs. The subtle synthetic chirps in the very background of “YAYAYA” make the songs chorus (obviously “Ya, ya, ya.”) that much more fun to sing.
On opener “While I’m Alive,” one could almost get very annoyed by the treble-y tone of the hook if one didn’t notice the breaths that inflate it, turning a kind of irritation synth into a pleasant, falsetto hum. A lot of the “synths” on this album actually end up with the same fate: close listening reveals them to be actual instruments.
Hodges’ falsetto is present on many of the songs on the album and it perfectly fits and complements his neo-funk arrangements. On other songs, such as “Fortune’s Fool” and “Beach Monster,” he lets his voice relax and lower, which perfectly fits the song’s surfer feel.
The songwriting on the album is still just as remarkable as Hodges’ past efforts. The songs are structured rather well, although there’s nothing too surprising: Some of them evolve into mid-tempo struts while others slow down further (penultimate track “Nite Rite” slows down to one single synth for about a minute at the end).
I can’t say I didn’t like this album. Every song is good but not up to the same standard that a fan would expect after 2011’s “Reptilians.” It seems as though STRFKR has mined this vein far too deep and, as a result, grown stagnant. Recommended for fans of quirky, pretty, uncomplicated indie pop.