The past few years have become a lackluster goldmine for electro-pop fusion, a sound that has morphed from an exciting novelty into the uninspired white noise that can be heard while walking through any given Urban Outfitters. STRFKR (have they officially decided on that abbreviation, or are we spelling out the full “Starfucker” now?) stands out, not only with its quirky albeit absurd moniker, but with an unashamed willingness to embrace every synth and guitar riff that create dance/pop bliss on the band’s latest album, Miracle Mile.
The album asserts its sound from the start as the crooning vocals and funk guitar assail on the opening track and lead single, “While I’m Alive.” Despite following the formulaic outline of a classic pop track (catchy hook, simple baseline and, overall, 100-percent danceable), it demands attention. From the song’s jarring, electronic shifts or the roll-off-the-tongue repetition of “While I’m alive!” it’s hard to completely figure out why the song is so compelling. In theory, there should be nothing special to the song, yet that’s exactly the reason Miracle Mile is such a success.
Pulling what sometimes seem to be exhausted elements from heroes of indie-pop past, the upbeat tempos and soul-infused riffs are refreshing to a sound that can easily become stale. Tracks like “Malmö” — where lead singer Joshua Hodges’s voice combines with a chorus so catchy that, naturally, they whistled some of it — bring up comparisons to groups like Peter, Bjorn and John.
Sprinkled throughout the record are shorter songs like “Isea” and “Yayaya” that range from 50 seconds to around two minutes. There’s nothing particularly profound about these mini-tracks aside from the fact that they maintain the flow of the album and will keep people’s heads bobbing, but that’s exactly what they do, and they do it well. The funk guitar is crucial to this album’s sound, as it guides Hodges’s breathy vocals throughout, making sure the slower paced songs (such as the memorable, two-minute-long “Yayaya”) are still danceable ones.
Miracle Mile isn’t a groundbreaking work, but STRKFR makes it clear that isn’t the goal. In an attempt to make a polished and catchy pop album, STRFKR clearly embraces all the sounds and tropes that are all too commonly heard and, frankly, exhausted in typical pop music.
Instead of hyping up the synths and overproducing songs to make them digestible at best, STRKFR brings out the quality in these elements and produces its best album to date. Miracle Mile combines the best of electro-pop and makes an album that will have people dancing until these guys decide to change their name again.