ALBUM REVIEW: Slow Runner’s Damage Points
Slow Runner’s Damage Points is a psychological mind-f*ck. Not quite indie and not quite pop, Charleston, SC’s Slow Runner releases their fourth studio album on March 15th. Made up of singer/songwriter/keyboardist Michael Flynn and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaler, Damage Points is a unique dance between the synthesized light-hearted bleeps and bloops coupled with a gripping emotional depth that parks right under your skin without reprieve.
Slow Runner is one of those under-rated and under the radar bands that not everyone gets their brilliance on the first listen. That’s the magic of good and innovative music. But after laying on the repeat button, the dizzying amount of spins on this album is so satisfying and frustrating at the same time. Hang tight and I’ll get to the frustration.
Slow Runner has built a fiercely loyal fan base thanks to catchy synth-pop tunes and amusing lyrics about dorks chasing the hot girl (usually unsuccessfully). Opening the album with their title track “Damage Points,” it’s clear that the band has graduated. With a decidedly cinematic opening and building crescendos, Flynn is singing with heaviness about emotional baggage and regrets. And just when you thought the album was going to take you on a completely different turn, “Auto-Happy” kicks off sounding like the old Slow Runner complete with an uptempo electronic opening that could have been in any Scott Baio 80’s movie soundtrack (think Zapped!) and a “fembot” vocalist (what?), Lindsay Windham. I’m fully expecting velcro Zips and underoos when this video comes out.
There are a few things you can always count on with every Slow Runner album. Clever lyrics (Michael Flynn has received awards for his songwriting), video game bleeps and blips (Flynn has also produced music for video games and gaming communities), vocals with equal parts smarm and vulnerability, and synth-heavy production and engineering (Josh Kaler is an accomplished and well-respected multi-instrumentalist. Flynn said in my interview with SR last year that Kaler is so talented that if he grew extra limbs, they’d start firing band members :)).
Some stand-out tracks are “It’s Back” that only has 2 verses yet clocks in at 5:11. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a dreary day that demonstrates how grippingly poignant Slow Runner’s storytelling can be. The spider kiss / the dagger twist / the icy fist / the long pause / that feeling that you tucked down in your stomach / it’s back, it’s back. “Spooky Ghost” is the most interesting with the hand-claps turned digital and synthy weirdness that seems like an ode to Pac-Man. This song is my least favorite, only because I have an illogical aversion to falsetto.
“Say You’re Still Lonely” sticks to Slow Runner’s successful formula of ‘chasing the reluctant girl by essentially implying she’s got nothing better to do than be with him’ storyline. It’s so easy to relate to a song like this. That’s what I love about Slow Runner. We’ve all been there! My favorite track is “Devil Moon,” a chill and contemplative coveted “driving” song that finished with the 2nd most votes on RadioPotato’s Top 5 songs for February. “Sleep driving through another year/Always miss the part that just disappears/Held together by some chords and caffeine/Trade my piano for a time machine/Devil Moon, I hope you finish with me soon/ I’m turning into some kind of pathetic cartoon” Similar to Mermaids “The Stakes Were Raised” (2008) “Devil Moon” is their most traditional song on the album. Traditional, as in it actually sounds like a full band.
That’s the thing about Damage Points. It sounds perfect as it is – but it frustratingly leaves you wanting more. Perhaps it’s because it’s only 9 songs but also, because there is almost a purposefully unfinished raw edge. How could this band mind-f*ck me like that? It can be fun and whimsical, it can be dark and thought-provoking. The video game influence can be ridiculously spacey but also has a very human element that is so thought-provoking where you just want to lose yourself in the music and shut everything else off.
Recently reviewed in CharlestonScene.com, Kaler was quoted as saying “We kind of feel like this record is the follow-up to ‘No Disassemble‘ (2004), this is the most authentic record we’ve made. It’s the best sounding because we’ve had the most control. I was a big part of the mixing process, and I feel like it was the culmination of all schooling and work I’ve done.”
Flynn added, “I work best when I can trick myself into thinking I’m rebelling against something.” With Flynn’s trademark snarkiness, he decided to do a hilariously fake interview with the actual album, Damage Points HERE.
Bottom line: Get this album. Your life will improve.
Damage Points‘ global release is set for March 15th and Slow Runner is launching their first North American tour with critically acclaimed singer/songwriter William Fitzsimmons on March 23rd. For a good time, click here and go see them yourself -> Slow Runner Tour Dates
For more music musings, stalk RadioPotato at Facebook, Twitter, RadioPotato’s RSS Feed, and at music news super-site, The Silver Tongue where I’m a contributor. Thanks for checking the music out and as always, support emerging artists!