Well-executed sibling harmony — see the Beach Boys, Fiery Furnaces and the Carpenters — is generally one of the most direct routes to the heart of any music listener. Straylight Run's John Nolan and sister Michelle DaRosa seem to be well aware of this fact. On the band's latest release The Needles The Space, each takes full advantage of the other's vocal potential, crafting intelligent and sugary existential pop that questions our culture of vanity and overindulgence. But while Straylight Run's 2004 self-titled debut banked on some of these same strengths, Space leads the listener down unexpected paths. Challenging arrangements and the tasteful incorporation of a horn section, strings and even a marching drum-line all help to enhance the record's warm, organic feel. Like the apocalyptic indie-folk of the Arcade Fire, Space's simple, acoustic-guitar-and-piano framework is ideal for addressing legitimate personal and social struggles while avoiding self-indulgent melodrama.
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