Listening to an artist talk about their influences is very rarely revelatory. It’s a question most musicians are asked far too often and their answers rarely are often pretty surface level—of course a person that enjoys both twang and guitar solos is going to be big on Neil Young. But for the Philadelphia-via-Portland-via-Montana band Strange Ranger, the music that inspires them is just as crucial to their records as the evolving songwriting partnership between frontman Isaac Eiger and bassist Fred Nixon. They’ve gleefully broadcast what they love across their catalog, from their sprawling love letter to Pacific Northwest indie rock, 2016's Rot Forever (recorded under the name Sioux Falls) to the lived-in emo-tinged intimacy of their 2017 Strange Ranger rebrand debut Daymoon. Their forthcoming follow-up Remembering The Rockets is unpredictable and expansive, a thrilling document of a band with an ever-changing muse.
"This record is more a product of us just trying to make something that reflected that we’re all listening to different stuff now," says Eiger over the phone in between several pauses and thoughtful qualifiers. Across 14 eclectic songs, Remembering The Rockets is searching and rewarding. The album-opening lead single "Leona" is bursting with "ba da da das" that wouldn’t feel out of place next to a Third Eye Blind song on ‘90s rock radio and lush guitars that take notes from the Cure. But the real leap comes in "Living Free," which is premiering below. Here, the track ditches jangle for daydreaming synths and simple drum loops. It’s a stunning piece that serves as the emotional high point of the entire album. He adds, "I don't know we always go for direct reaction to the last thing we make but every time we write something we like switching stuff up so it doesn't get boring. We just like change."
Eiger excitedly rifles through reference points both musical and non-musical. He loves the Ben Lerner book 10:04. The 2017 film Good Time emotionally wrecked him. A 1996 Primitive Radio Gods single was "the best thing [he] had ever heard."
"It had those sampled drum loops and it was beautiful and emotional in a distant way," he says. "We wanted to write songs in that space."
Those feelings are translated into Eiger’s heartrending and impressionistic lyrics on "Living Free." He sings, "eating apples in the yard / you don't know what makes you happy / all the colors in your memories." It's a ruminative stunner, one that’s especially hopeful. "In the future there is love," he concludes at one point in the song.
While there’s optimism in Remembering the Rockets there’s also acute anxiety about the future and whether or not to settle down when everything is so perilous in the world. It’s there on "Living Free" when Eiger asks, "what if I just want a family?" and it’s brought up throughout the tracklist. "It’s so shitty. I have no idea what to do and I think about this all the time," says Eiger,. "Everything is so fucked and terrifying but if you want a family and the fucked-ness of the world holds you back, you’re basically folding. Your life will be a hellish slog. When I’m feeling good about it, that’s how I feel but it’s hard." It’s that defiance and kindness that moves Remembering The Rockets to being a standout LP in 2019, a document of a band figuring out who they want to be.
Remembering the Rockets is out July 26. Preorder it here.