Album Review - Strange Names' "Use your Time Wisely"

By Ryan Kluge

Originally from Minneapolis, Brooklyn-based synth-pop trio Strange Names releases their debut album Use Your Time Wisely just in time to be the album of the summer. The album features energy-filled dance beats with ethereal arpeggiated guitars, thick synth layers, and very driving, overdriven bass that gives the overall sound of the album the feel of being in a John Hughes film.

Strange Names released two songs off of the album before the release of Use Your Time Wisely: “Neighborhood,” “I Can’t Control Myself” and the lead single “Ricochet.” These three tracks were just a taste to an album that would present eight more songs that held tight to the sound that is Strange Names.

The introductory track, “Return”, begins with a fluttering synth that surrounds the listener, followed by a building punchy bass line right before the full band jumps in with chorus-filled guitars, stabbing synth chords and dancey drums providing for a very 80’s-esque instrumental. The song begins to have a sort-of angsty feel with lines like “I’m not the guy I used to be, I’m not your springtime fantasy. Return to me...” Overall, this song serves as an excellent precursor for what else is to come with the rest of the album.

The next track, “Ricochet,” is rhythmically driven as the drums and bass are heavily emphasized. The other instruments add interesting textures and layers while utilizing thick delays. The overall feel of the song is edgy and a little darker than its former. Following, is “I Can’t Control Myself” which is another song that is almost impossible to listen to motionless. Throughout the verses, muted guitar and bass lead the listener into the enormous array of sound in the chorus where one simply could not control themselves and refrain from dancing.

These first three tracks lay a solid foundation for the rest of the album where Strange Names takes the listener on a journey somewhere between present time and the 1980’s. The album ends perfectly with “Overused Phrase” which is a slower song compared to the others. It serves as the “closing credits” of the album. Like a great movie, it, in a way, leaves the listener feeling sad that it has come to an end.

Overall, Use Your Time Wisely includes 11 matchless songs that are not only full of energy and catchy as can be; they evoke feelings of love and angst. They include vocals that are incredibly captivating, making it difficult to not want to sing along while listening. Another standout element of this album is the utilization of both synth bass and electric bass creatively as lead instrument, rather than solely a rhythm instrument. Also, the synth leads in each track adds their own unique flavor and texture along with the rhythmic and arpeggiated electric guitar lines. All in all, Use Your Time Wisely is absolutely an album that one should not be without this summer.

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