Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
It's as if the pipe smoke is engulfing us. It's of a sweet tobacco leaf, and it's rich with a kind of refined smell that makes you want to roll around in it, like a spearmint patch or a wild honey clover. It's the sophisticated scent of a man who's puffing contentedly in the study, with the hi-fi playing classical pieces, but there he is breaking out his mad scratching skills and mashing some Wolfgang Amadeus or even Meredith Wilson scores with the Decemberists or the Arcade Fire, making for a new sound that's summery and still something that he could choose to read to, if it were playing behind him, slightly lighter. It's the sound of young Brooklyn group La Strada, a five-piece that utilizes accordions and strings in big, big, big arrangements and couples them with the kinds of winning lyrics that lead music journalists into calling such bands a bunch of learned gents with a bent on literate indie rock and roll, and assuming like they do with Colin Meloy, that the members of the group go nowhere without their spectacles and a New York Times rolled up under their arms. There will be much made next week of the debut full-length from The Soft Pack, a California band that used to famously be called the Muslims, and rightfully so, but this group is just as worthy of the praise for a likeminded approach to classic pop songwriting and a groove that's impossible to deny. It gets the hitch out of your step and diminishes your inhibitions to the point where you just start feeling your forehead greasing up with sweaty residue, making your bangs drip with action. James Craft, the band's primary songwriter and lead singer, keeps his songs pumping with such great vigor and an astounding array of feeling - making everything on the band's excellent debut full-length, "New Home," sound as if it's bursting with passion and little squalor. It's a polished run of sentiment that sounds as if it's over the moon, sweeping milk-ily across the roaming heavens with heaves and hums of sparkling trails of kisses. "Wash On By" is an anthem to take to the streets, moving us to keep chopping up the distance and just bask in our desires, our hungers and our dreams. It feels like young hopes and getting wrapped up in the opportunity to just freak out and break away from dead days and stagnancy. Craft sings, "Can't find a woman to save me," as he's out there with the crowded streets and feeling like a small and insignificant figure, though still sensing that he's got something special coursing through. It's a song that epitomizes so much about a group that has potential to do some gigantic things.
La Strada Official Site
Ernest Jenning Record Co.