Once the lead singer for The Strokes, Julian Casablancas featured “Phrazes for the Young” as his first solo album in 2009. Trying to give himself and his album a separate identity from The Strokes, Julian’s album is barely similar to his former band, but is still appreciated by many of their fans. Listed as ‘alternative’ by iTunes, these eight tracks could be considered any number of genres. “Phrazes for the Young” stands out from the crowd with its daring blend of styles, attention to musicality, and messages behind the music.
Julian seemed to capture diverse styles of music into one album. From the 80’s techno sounds of “11th Dimension”, the ballad-like R&B of “4 Chords of Apocalypse”, or to the country swing entangled in the cascading of keyboards in “Ludlow Street”. And he appears to create his own genre by combing styles like in “Glass”. He likes to use the sounds of the synthesizer and the melodies of guitar to create the wonderfully odd, but captivating harmonies in songs such as “River of Brakelights”.
The pairing of Julian’s deeply unique voice, combined with his modern take on music in “Phrazes for the Young” gives you an album that is simply mesmerizing.
This album isn’t a talent show full of wild guitar solos or the unnecessary flaunting of Julian’s vocal talents. It works to blend and balance the harmonies perfectly to create new, sensitizing sounds and melodies. It’s a different take on retro with it’s heavy use of synth, key board solos, and the rumbling of the bass. Sometimes uplifting or upbeat, and at other times more melancholy, these collections of tunes doesn’t overwhelm but simply enthralls the listener.
“Phrazes for the Young” leans away from the messages that many modern singers put across (drugs, sex, violence, etc) and more towards hopeful young ideas, and warnings of the effects of our society. Some of his lyrics refer to his many years of struggling with alcoholism, which he mentions in a sarcastically somber tone in tracks such as “Ludlow Street” or “Out of the Blue”. But then he also inspires in songs like “11th Dimension” with lines such as “If you believe in this world, no one has died in vain. But don’t you dare get to the top, and not know what to do,” or with “It won’t end here, your faith has got to be greater than your fear.” The songs uses its metaphors and promising themes to create new dreams for the young.
The album is something great if you’re looking for an escape from the common, the overplayed, or the distasteful. It’s a work that expresses what true musical talent sounds like, and is proof that songs don’t need to be simplistically repetitious or have immoral words to be enjoyable.