Album Review /// STRFKR /// Miracle Mile
I’ve been a bit nervous to both listen to and review the newest album, Miracle Mile, from PDX’s synth-pop kings, Starfucker (STRFKR). This is due to the fact that their 2011 album, Reptilians, was my favorite album of the year, and continues to be one of my go-to records on a regular basis. Simply put—Miracle Mile has had a lot to live up to in my mind.
The best way to take in a new album from a band is to set it against the remainder of the discography as opposed to putting it on the scales and weighing against other bands across a variety of genres. Being Starfucker’s third full-length, Miracle Mile has the bedroom pop of the debut self-titled album and the raucous dance numbers on Reptilians to be compared to. Existing in a catalog like that, Miracle Mile fits in perfectly. It doesn’t replace my love for Reptilians, but in its essence, it is a wonderful record full of unique song structures, catchy hooks, and a bit of a deviation from the rave-vibe and into a groove-filled funkier feeling.
Frontman Josh Hodges has relinquished what were his full-time songwriting duties and now each band member contributes as a crucial pillar in the songwriting process. The most notable difference on Miracle Mile can be heard in the focus on the rhythm section as opposed to the usual emphasis on the synthesizers. Thick bass lines are abundant and the drumbeats still have the hip-hop influence that the band routinely cites, but these instruments are brought out front to the listener. This style can be heard on the album’s first single, “While I’m Alive.” As the high-pitched synths follow Hodges’ vocals, the bass line helps guide the song, with the instrument completely taking over with a solo around the two-minute mark. It’s a different style, and an important sign that the band is no longer a Josh Hodges music project, but a four-piece ensemble with each quarter serving as a load-bearing component.
An area on Miracle Mile that draws similarities to the self-titled debut is the number of acoustic, laid-back pieces during the album’s mid-section. From “Beach Monster” through “Say to You”—a six song stretch—the band gives the keyboards a break for the most part and takes up the acoustic and electric guitars. The result is a section that sounds more influenced by psychedelic rock than the synth-pop Starfucker fans are accustomed to. It’s in this section that Hodges gives the widest range to his vocals. From his common echoed crune to a high-reaching falsetto, the frontman showcases his versatility in a way that gives each songs a unique style as the band gets playful with its guitar melodies.
All this being said, Starfucker has not completely abandoned its talent in crafting catchy dance numbers. A three-song stretch on the tail-end of the album provides some of the band’s finest work. “Atlantis” packs an 80’s new wave-style punch as the simple beats help to steer Hodges’ reverberated vocals over synth hooks, while “Leave It All Behind” could’ve easily been a track from the Reptilians outtakes. The highlight comes in the third song in the run with “I Don’t Want to See”—a brooding piece that has one of the album’s most infectious rhythms, but doesn’t get overly jovial as Hodges keeps his vocals monotone and in a lower, almost conversation-like, tone.
When all is said and done, Miracle Mile is able to accomplish what I expect from any Starfucker record—creates an urge for repeated listens. It may not have the energy and enthusiasm of Reptilians, but the songwriting is on-point and shows that the band is able to diversify and expand its repertoire in a way that will keep a firm grasp on the user’s attention. It sure worked on me.