Published Jul 23, 2019On their third full-length, Strange Ranger persist on their unpredictable trajectory, and are a markedly different-sounding band since their early days under the name Sioux Falls, a project started in Montana and relocated to Portland shortly after. From their first few EP releases to their debut album, Rot Forever, in 2016, the main songwriting duo of Isaac Eiger and Fred Nixon approached Sioux Falls with the sprawling sounds of distraught, guitar-driven indie rock, not unlike fellow Pacific Northwesterner's Built to Spill and Modest Mouse, burning in their own anxious streaks of yearning, cathartic emo.
As Strange Ranger, the band pull the listener in closer by forging clarity and stillness, showing restraint in their moodier outlooks. Now a four-piece based in Philadelphia, Remembering the Rockets continues the path traced by their second album, Daymoon, as it strolls in a humid afterglow, with their bleeding hearts meandering in a stream of ennui that's beautiful and contemplative in an open-ended way.
From the sunny, jangly pop and '90s radio rock-inspired "ba-da-da"s on opener "Leona," to the sassy, country-tinged "Ranch Style Home" nasally sung by Nixon, Strange Ranger aren't afraid of blending genres and going all in with an idea. In stark contrast, keyboardist Fiona Woodman takes lead vocals on the hypnotically dreamy "Message to You," a delicate, lovesick synth piece.
Still, some of Strange Ranger's hookiest moments are courtesy of Eiger, who sings in an achingly plainspoken way. Eiger's casually detached warbling runs adjacent to the electrified slowcore of "Beneath the Lights," like he's screaming a secret without ever actually raising his voice. The engrossing squeals and downtempo drum beat on "Living Free" grumble in golden light, narrated by Eiger's cerebral lyrics ("birds in the rain and strangers on the bus giving me advice").
Strange Ranger's music rambles along in sync with our inner thoughts — joyful and cheery, but at times full of doubt and overthinking. There are no definitive conclusions on Remembering the Rockets, but instead an analysis of friendships, relationships and everything in between, letting it all spill out in an extensive afterthought. (Tiny Engines)