Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Straw Factory - Straw Factory (2007)

Rating: 2.4

As a reviewer for Progressive Ears, I occasionally get sent albums to review. Usually, these are albums that I wouldn’t have bought otherwise. Sometimes, I get sent an album that is a real gem; other times, I get sent a dud. In the case of Straw Factory’s eponymous debut, neither of these is the case. Straw Factory is an album that is best described by the phrase “unrealized potential.” I can see the makings of a very good band in this release, but it just doesn’t reach that level.

The music is relaxing and pleasant, focusing on acoustic guitar and soothing vocals. It never really gets to the point where it rocks, and it’s not interesting enough to hold my full attention. The interesting ideas it presents do not tie themselves together into a cohesive whole. Perhaps the best way to sum up the overall effect of these flaws is that this is a very passive album. It’s not going to go out and grab your attention. If you want to enjoy it and sink into the music, you have to put in most of the effort. Because of that, the music suffers from a lack of replay value.

Not everything goes wrong, however. The music is very soothing and pleasant, a very soft type of alternative rock. The vocals are also quite nice (even if the lyrics are bland), relying on one main singer and several backup singers. These good traits are best seen on the songs “Vultures” and “Airplane,” which, not surprisingly, are the songs that do the best job of actually sucking you in, rather than making you do the work. The way I see it, if, on their next release, Straw Factory are able to emphasize these traits on all their songs, they could put together a strong album.

On this release, however, they have not done so. This is the type of album that sounds nice while you’re listening to it, but once it’s over, you have to wonder if it was really worth it. It’s not memorable, in short. While it’s a far cry from being a band album, it’s quite bland overall. A common comment on their Garageband page (which, so far as I can tell, is their only website) is that all the elements are there to make some really good music, except that their music lacks passion. You really can’t say it better than that. I hope these guys improve over time, because this album shows that they have the potential to become a good band. They’re just not there yet.

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