Brother/sister duo John and Michelle Nolan formed Straylight Run four years ago. The Needles The Space is their third release
and finds them overflowing with bracing pop smarts. Anchored by a core rock-band line-up, there are thoughtful production flourishes that include everything from trumpet and glockenspiel to alluringly complex vocal choruses. In short, it all sounds good. Unfortunately the pair’s tendency to tackle big subjects (good and evil, war and peace, rich and poor, life and death) undercuts its best intentions by laying out concepts with the naive passion of teenagers who’ve just started to wrap their minds around the idea of an ever-expanding universe. Only a few numbers are guilty of overt Sociology 101 essay-mongering, but they cast a pall. The songs are at their most unified when simpler, romantic issues take the wheel, or when personal poetics create more mysterious points of entry for the intellectually engaged listeners the band seeks.