2015 debut Use Your Time Wisely established Minneapolis to NYC transplants Strange Names as creators and performers of buoyant and masterful pop songs, songs that were relatable in the ubiquity of their subject matter but also in their fine-spun reverence to precursory (and magnificently danceable) New Wave greats like B-52s, Talking Heads and The Fixx. On follow-up Data, these definitive sonic tendencies remain in their purest form, but the soul of the record emerges distinctively amidst a newfound sense of exploration, in both sounds and motif, bringing to light Strange Names' most daring and realized music to date.
Written and recorded in Brooklyn and self-produced by the band themselves, Data surfaces principally as an album about perspective, boldly conceptualized from the viewpoint of aliens observing human behavior on earth in a methodical, scientific way, quite transparently, collecting "data." Amidst a grim and staggering cultural political zeitgeist, Data acknowledges the trivialities of human existence with self-aware humor through dissociation and escapism. Mundane themes like relationships woes can seem miniscule in the grand scheme of current affairs, but by implementing the childlike wonder of a completely (and literally) alien third party analyzing them, the narrative becomes compelling and, in Strange Names' case, a means by which to thoughtfully and infectiously encapsulate the absurdity and nuance of our reality in 2018 through music.
Where their previous record emanated a more sleek and modular sound, Data ushers in a more rambunctious, rock-centered audio-aesthetic. Leading with bouncy opener "UFO," Strange Names establish a driving framework that carries throughout the entire album. From the surging syncopation of "People to Go" to the infectious space-funk of "Keep Walking Away" to the melodic verve of "Into Me," they have completely and brilliantly shifted their sonic references to a territory where allusions to Womack & Womack / Island Records heyday take rightful precedence over the silvery synth structures of derivative ‘80s New Wave. On "People to Go," the band even enlists the vocals of Jorge Socarras, founder and frontman of early ‘80s NYC art rock band Indoor Life as well as a close collaborator of electronic pioneer Patrick Cowley.
After recording, the band spent a week with producer Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, The Drums), who did some final mixing, leaving them with a record that's assured, inventive and unabashedly fun.