Wednesday, September 23, 2009

La Strada - 'La Strada'

Light and airy. Those are the words for describing the self-titled EP from New York’s La Strada. Thanks to frontman James Crafts’ vocals, the group passingly resembles any Dan Bejar band, most notably the New Pornographers circa Challengers. I’d even say La Strada (Italian for “The Road;” French for… the Strada) recalls the softer side of Neutral Milk Hotel, but I wouldn’t want to oversell the EP. Because if there’s one thing La Strada doesn’t need, it’s hype. Hype builds false expectations. And while the EP doesn’t exactly knock out six life-changing tracks in a row, it does feature some really, really nice songs. Like North Carolina’s Bowerbirds, La Strada specializes in gentle, pleasant indie/folk songs.

“Orphan” opens the disc quietly, with drums, then guitar, then accordion. It’s like softly waking up, which makes the song’s opening lines (“Wake up you silly / Shake your sleepy head”) all the more fitting. It’s a warm, inviting beginning, which extends throughout. Though more prevalent percussion adds a little more kick on track two, “Sun Song,” La Strada generally sticks with that formula.

The nearly seven-minute-long “Starling” aims for more ambitious territory at the EP’s end. With so many musicians (seven, plus guests Tim Albright and Rachel Elliot on trombone and bassoon on half of the songs), La Stada teeters on the edge of orchestral indie rock, never fully embracing that genre’s sense of the dramatic until “Starling.” You could say that shit gets real, with bombast and swelling arrangements. It’s cool to see these folks can get cut loose, and it adds more hope for a strong full-length in the group’s future.

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