Strays Don’t Sleep
Release Date: June 13, 2006
Hybrid (Red) | buy now
Strays Don’t Sleep, which is comprised of Matthew Ryan (vocals, guitars, keys), Neilson Hubbard (vocals, guitars, synth), Brian Bequette (guitar, loops and keys), Billy Mercer (bass guitar) and Steve Latanation (drums), offer on their untitled debut album a soulful collection of efforts that make for quite the easy-listening experience.
One of the most heartfelt songs, and perhaps the hopeless romantic track of the album, “Pretty Girl” focuses on a guy who finds a girl he does not know, yet has caught his eye, paying just as much attention to him as he is to her. Whether staring back at him at first, or smiling back at him later on, this song is truly about falling in love at first sight, and it captures that feeling perfectly as, not knowing if the two will ever cross paths again, the helpless pleas of “Please don’t change the way you changed me today, please don’t take this away” is offered only to be followed up with the chorus of “I’ll take her and make her so happy. So don’t take her. Don’t make her happy to be without me.” Rarely can this feeling ever be placed so accurately, yet here it is, offered as such.
“For Blue Skies,” which has been featured on the teen drama One Tree Hill, and was previously released earlier this year as part of the One Tree Hill, Volume 2: Friends With Benefit soundtrack, is not only the longest track of the album, but it is in fact, the epic-love track. With a heavy focus on forgiveness, the song tells a story of a love that has fallen apart over time, while never having been actually let go of. Holding on to the memories, there is a hope that remains. This hope is for blue skies, a brighter day, with such an outcome being the result of one learning to forgive.
“Cars and History” is arguably the album’s gem. The song, which takes place just before the turn of the new year, tells a story so compelling, with a long-sought after love finally being attained. Perhaps the perfect way to ring in the new year, having finally been able to win the heart of the one held so close for so long. While there is an underlying focus on war and the fear that presents itself here, this is possibly a metaphor for the present fear of losing such love.
Other standout tracks include “Night Is Still,” which draws you in immediately with its soft, enchanting sound that is heard echoing throughout the track, and “I’m Falling Asleep With You,” the last listed track of the album, concluding that while there is so much going on, nothing else matters in the world once in the arms and by the side of one so deeply loved, making it such a fittingly perfect ending.
There are two “hidden” tracks at the end of the album. The first one, “You Belong To Me,” is a cover song that fits well with the tempo and style of the collection of tracks it follows. “Stay,” an uncharacteristically up-tempo track that feels somewhat out of place, but is actually a nice final track for the album.
This solid debut effort is generally about hope. Hoping for that first love. Hoping for that love at first sight. Hoping for a second chance by means of forgiveness. Regardless of the message, the hope remains. Melodic, yet with lyrics so endearing there is reason for such hope to exist.
DVD EXTRA – The album comes with a bonus DVD that features 10 short films which each tell a story for each of the tracks listed, with (one track, “Pretty Girl”) having two short films dedicated to it. The “films” for each of the songs are relatively simplistic in nature, focusing on specific objects and environments, such as the fire burning from a lighter in the video for “Martin Luther Ave” or a night tour around a city for “Night Is Still.” Both of the films for “Pretty Girl” focus heavily on women who are applying make-up, with the first, main film having a greater artistic approach to the act than the bonus version of the film. While there really aren’t any storylines portrayed in these music videos, there is a distinct symbolism in each of the films hinting at something far greater than the obvious. However, for certain songs, such as “For Blue Skies” and “Cars & History,” there is greater depth displayed.
“For Blue Skies” has a man who seems greatly troubled, with ever present facial expressions of regret, looking out at the world in despair, by means of a television set. Interestingly, it is unclear what the character is being haunted by throughout the video, with the only present clues being the words written on the white t-shirts displayed throughout the film and the television scenes that seem to have him so captivated. The end result seems to be a letting go of himself, with him finally shutting off the television, packing up and walking out the door.
Like the audio CD itself, the film for “Cars & History” stands out among all others with its story being told differently than any of the other films on the DVD. One aspect that separates it from the others is the use of written text appearing on-screen during the film. The messages read throughout the film give further insight to the main character of the film, portrayed by actress Jessica Bohl. At first portraying her character as rebellious, and later having her come off as rather lonesome and on edge because of it. The latter message is accurately read by means of piecing together the words that make up the question: “How far would you go to feel less alone?”
While this collection of short films for each of the listed tracks were made on a low-budget and weren’t meant to be a collection of actual music-videos, there are stories being told here. This is an excellent bonus and while the content may leave something left to be desired, the artistic approach to creating such films definitely will not.
Standout Tracks: “For Blue Skies”, “Night Is Still”, “Cars and History”, “Pretty Girl”.
– Christopher Griffin