Before The Strokes return with a new album next year, frontman Julian Casablancas looks to finally have his own say with Phrazes for the Young. The new LP marks the first solo release for Casablancas, while other Strokes members have been keeping busy with side projects (Fabrizio Moretti’s stint with Little Joy, as well as Albert Hammond Jr.’s solo work) during the band’s hiatus. Keeping the album short but sweet, Casablancas cuts out any filler material and delivers a tight album comprised of eight eclectic tracks that explore elements of electronic music while still maintaining a rock edge. With Casablancas’ pensive lyrics layered over a sonic aesthetic that’s nothing like that of The Strokes, Phrazes for the Young is an innovative set of potential pop hits.
In searching for a new direction for this album, Julian Casablancas enlisted the aid of pop producer Jason Lader (Maroon 5) to bring his musical vision to life, as well as musician/producer Mike Mogis, who is currently touring as a part of Monsters of Folk. Both producers’ influences are evident on the album, which includes tracks ranging from dance-floor stompers (“11th Dimension”) to a bluesy gospel-like number (“4 Chords Of The Apocalypse”). The variance in style among the different tracks on Phrazes reaffirms Casablancas’ versatile talent as a singer-songwriter, especially important in the wake of The Strokes’ most recent album, First Impressions of Earth, a critical flop.
The album’s best cut is the hypnotic “Glass.” The lullaby-like track has Casablancas ironically droning about bulletproof glass over an organ and dreamingly resonate synthesizers. Strings accompany the beautiful texture of the song during the chorus, but the apex of the song occurs halfway through with a guitar-driven breakdown seemingly inspired by Mozart’s compositions.
Another standout track is the ’80s-tinged “Left & Right in the Dark,” a carefree romp which delivers his most playful vocals to date over a drum machine, synthesizers and guitar riffs reminiscent to those in A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran (So Far Away).” What seals the deal for this song is its totally infectious chorus that would make even John Hughes proud.
Casablancas even makes a nod to The Strokes with “Out of the Blue,” a track that stays true to the band’s winning formula of smooth guitar riffs in harmony with the bass playing over his recognizably witty lyrics, declaring, “I know I’m going to hell in a leather jacket / At least I’ll be in another world while you’re pissing on my casket.”
With Phrazes for the Young, Julian Casablancas let his creative freedom run wild, which is very apparent in the distinct sounds of each track. Like the frontman himself, the album may not be all too coherent most of the time, but it still manages to channel that madness into unparalleled musical genius.