Part of Julian Casablancas' reputation as The Strokes' frontman has always been his bratty nonchalance. So it's something of a surprise, then, to discover that his solo album, Phrazes for the Young, is fairly surging with exuberance.
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Phrazes' songs are brassy and confident in ways that The Strokes' more recent efforts were not; eschewing the dirty garage-rock sound that made Casablancas famous, the record's lead single, "11th Dimension" is hook-happy and synth-heavy, effusive and delightful. Amid the music's polished texture, Casablancas' trademark sleepy croon even sounds newly energized—his voice has a vivre here that we rarely heard on any Strokes record. Phrazes is no one-trick pony of flashy electronic beats, though: "Ludlow St.," an ode to nights out on the Lower East Side, features banjo solos, and indeed sounds like a sloshy tune you'd belt out with your drinking buddies at the neighborhood tavern; "River of Brakelights" then switches to tripping drum machines and weird little synth riffs. "Waving goodbye, your young heart cries for you," that latter song longingly trills. But in Casablancas' case, maturation has only brought good things.