Indie rock band, Strange Ranger have released their third album, Remembering the Rockets. Standing out among other indie acts, Strange Ranger mixes their sound with influences of ambience, lo-fi, and nostalgic 90’s rock vibes. It’s a contemplative album that feels like it is in its head a lot and uses carefully written and understated moments to express itself. The end result is an earnest indie rock album that at times gels but walks a fine line of being simply passable.
The album opens with, “Leona,” an enjoyable track with melancholy vocal melodies and jangly strumming guitars. The lyrics are interesting in a relatable and mundane way but lean on a generic, “ba-da-da-da-da-da-da” sing along chorus. Where this song really shines is the bridge and outro. There is a glistening toy piano melody over a Cure-like guitar riff is really enjoyable. The drums come in crashing with a second rhythm guitar and the end result is a powerful and sleek jam. It’s not a particularly loud or aggressive, but there is a lot of strength behind it’s cool ambience. Overall, it’s a great opener for the record and sets the energy level for most of the songs to come.
“Sunday” instantly jumps out at you. It kicks off with powerful acoustic strumming and a catchy tremolo guitar picking melody. The lyrics are honest and the vocal melody is catchy and heartfelt. There’s a lot of emotion behind the simple line, “You say it’s gone” right before the chorus. It’s a more straightforward rock track and has some of the most impressive songwriting and guitar work on the album.
The stand out track on the album, “Message to You” is a quiet track surprisingly filled with power and emotion. The female vocalist here does an outstanding job. Her voice is soothing and almost melts into the music. The instrumentation consists of calm, swelling synth chords with crunchy drums hits that get more distorted as the track progresses. The entire percussion arrangement for the track is amazingly composed and is one of its main driving forces. As for the female vocalist, I would love if she contributed more on the album. This song really displays Strange Rangers song writing capabilities and versatility.
“Ranch Style Home” is a noteworthy point on the album and also one of the more energetic tracks. Even though I’m not a fan of the nasally and out of tune vocals, I feel like this is a hit for the band due to its messy energy and overall catchiness. It feels like Strange Ranger are doing their best Pixies impression here, but they make it their own and the end result works. I love the chaotic and apathetic energy it has and the shrieking background vocals toward the back half of the track.
Outside of these four tracks, there weren’t many others that really drew me in. The rest of the tracks float in an ambient limbo that simply can’t reach the top tier. There are moments that almost break through like the synth intro of “Living Free,” but most of the time there’s no real material to sink your teeth into. They’re still enjoyable and easy to listen to, they just lack true purpose or substance and end up meandering around. It doesn’t help that there are a handful of lackluster instrumental tracks that don’t contribute anything to the direction of the album. On an album where the tracks are hit or miss, these instrumentals just kind of point out the lack of diverse material.
I almost feel this album would have better served as a tight knit EP. If some of the less substantial tracks and the instrumentals were cut, it would be much more concise product.
While not being perfect, Remembering the Rockets does grow on you. It sparks honest and true nostalgic emotions of 90’s rock and indie. There are some very pretty moments on this record and the sentimentalism behind the lyrics should be admired. There are a handful of tracks I think are hits and personally really enjoy, but it still isn’t the most concise collection of songs. There are peaks and valleys among the tracklist but I feel the peaks show that Strange Ranger has the chops to pull off some great songwriting, they are just still finding their voice.