Phrazes for the Young Album Review

   The Strokes’ front man Julian Casablancas released his debut solo album, “Phrazes for the Young” on November 2, 2009. The album’s lyrics focus on post-apocalyptic motifs, while its uncommon blend of electronic synth-pop, rock and blues gives it a unique and futuristic quality. “Phrazes” is definitely worth listening to on repeat.

   Though The Strokes are still together, each member has gone on to either release a solo album or work with other bands. They have not released an album since their third, “First Impressions of Earth,” which was met with lukewarm reviews in 2006. The band is currently working together on an album which is scheduled to release in March.

   Casablancas is known for his unique vocals, which are reminiscent of both Lou Reed and Jim Morrison. His angry croon, though a seeming contradiction, helped set him apart from other singers when The Strokes first became popular in the early 2000s. Throughout “Phrazes,” Casablancas ranges from snarling disillusionment in “Out of the Blue” to controlled chaos in “River of Brakelights” to beautiful nostalgia in “Tourist.”

   While Casablancas is mellower (he no longer throws microphone stands during performances) than he ever was in the heavy days of The Strokes, his music continues their tortured tradition. He still sings about drinking in “Ludlow St.” (he recently recovered from an alcohol addiction) and a feeling of angry loneliness permeates “Out of the Blue.” One of the iTunes-extra songs, “30 Minute Boyfriend,” with its semi-terrifying declaration of love, is reminiscent of The Strokes’ “Heart in a Cage.”

   The singer throws in smatterings of angry wisdom throughout the album. In the epic sounding “River of Brakelights,” he sing-screams, “Like batteries we die, like rivers we dry. Refuel and recharge, that’s humans and cars.” In “Out of the Blue,” he sings that “when roles are reversed, opinions are too.” Casablancas proves throughout “Phrazes” that he is fully capable of delivering songs that are both catchy and thought-provoking.

   Casablancas’ debut album may be more pleasing to non-Strokes fans, as it is more varied and moves away from the garage-rock that The Strokes were so popular for years ago. The last track, “Tourist,” which simultaneously makes you want to dance and cry, features an inexplicably melancholy and slow Spanish-style guitar loop. “11th Dimension,” the album’s single, is an 80s-esque pop song, while “4 Chords of the Apocalypse” is a bluesy tune that is just waiting to be played over a breakup scene in a chick-flick.

   Casablancas proves his songwriting and vocal ability in this debut solo album. Though it moves away from The Strokes’ work, “Phrazes for the Young” will please both Strokes fans and the casual listener.

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