Sound — 7
Pop. Fun. Ambition. New Wave? Angles. This is a different kind of Strokes record. But if you let go of any 'expectations' you might have had of this album, and forget about what you think a band like The Strokes SHOULD sound like, then you'll probably enjoy this album. First of all, the name of the album says it all. Angles is truly the most collaborative thing The Strokes have worked on, and it is also the least cohesive album they've ever released. Each band member contributes something from his own unique perspective and his own musical influences. The influences are apparent and sometimes even blatantly obvious in each track (I won't name any). It's not the most original thing they've come up with, but it is fully a Strokes album regardless, and it is a good listen, regardless. This is the poppiest thing The Strokes have ever released, and the songs are as catchy as can be. Don't really understand why the worn-out "garage rock" label is still being dragged around with this band. Angles is not that. There are 80s pop, New Wave influences here, starting off strong with "Machu Picchu". The more electronic-sounding drum beats contribute the most to this feel in general. But to say this album sounds like one decade would be short-sighted, as The Strokes build from various influences (retro, modern and futuristic) to assemble their own little collage of music they listen to and enjoy. I'm tempted to say that they actually build upon those influences to create their own new brand of music, but I don't feel like they really do that to any significant extent on this particular album. There is a bit new exploration in regards to the variety of sounds that guitarists Albert and Nick can get out of their guitars. There is a range from a naked clean sound to an almost cheap-sounding fizz. It's always appropriate to each song though, so it fits, but there isn't much of a 'flow' or anything to latch on to for the length of the entire album. More often than not, one guitar will take on the 'lead' role while the other plays in the background, as opposed to previous Strokes records where there is more of an equal balance of roles between the two guitars. The drums are more electronic-sounding. There are definitely some pre-programmed beats on this LP, although they come in limited amounts. The pulsating drum beats are also louder in the mix than on previous records. The bass is present and solid as always, but in terms of bringing anything new in particular to the table... it doesn't. Both the drums and bass disappear for the quietest track on the album, "Call Me Back". The occasional keyboards/synths - yes - add to the happy electro-pop feel of this album, and help complete the vibe. Flute sounds and whistle sounds are just a part of the mixture... but are solid contributors, not just hastily thrown in there.
Lyrics — 7
We all (should) know about Julian's abilities as a vocalist. No need to elaborate on that. But... what about the other guys in the band? Oh yes, we find out, as guitarists Albert and Nick take on backup singing duties on Angles. This new vocal interplay between the three is present throughout the album, and is most notably effective (to me) in the final 25 seconds of "Call Me Back" and the chorus sections in "Gratisfaction". It's like The Strokes found a new fun toy to play with, or an instrument they've always had but just haven't decided to use until now. As for Julian himself, the presentation of his vocals have changed significantly since 2006. They once again find themselves buried a little deeper into the mix, as opposed to the more prominent vocals in FIOE. In Angles Julian's vocals are more processed and 'modified' in the studio than they've ever been, which continues the sense of sonic exploration the rest of the band goes through on this LP. Also of note, Julian's vocal range is stretched noticeably higher than it has been in the past, which makes me wonder if he'll be able to pull those notes off in the middle of a full live set. We'll see. Sounds very good on the recordings nevertheless. Lyrically, this album is pretty average. For me, personally, lyrics can only add to an album's sound, never take away. Good lyrics are a plus. The lyrics in Angles essentially add nothing to the album. In albums past, memorable Strokes lyrics have pushed albums from 'very good' to 'great', and that quality is not present on Angles. On the first couple of listens I did enjoy one line in particular, from "Under Cover Of Darkness", which proclaims: "Everybody's been singing the same song for ten years. That made me smile.
Overall Impression — 7
Strokes fans, get over It. Well, not completely, of course (ITI is my favorite album - ever), but don't let the past get in the way of you enjoying this record. The Strokes know all about hype. Strokes fans know all about hype. Forget all that. After five years, The Strokes give us yet another good record. Yes, that's it. Listen to it. Enjoy it. Angles will be your summer album of 2011 if you'll let it. Fun. Ambitious. A victory after a five-year hiatus. Surprisingly, to me it feels almost like something a young up-and-coming band today would release as its debut. In several ways, that makes sense. Times have changed. And after so much time apart (musically), The Strokes seem refreshed. I like what I hear, and I'm excited to see where The Strokes will go next.