In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never listened to a Flyleaf song in my entire life. It seems like an impossible feat since they’re a pretty popular band. It hasn’t been an active removal, distancing or dislike; it’s just that my life and Flyleaf’s life have never crossed paths. In doing my research, this particular release (Between the Stars) is important because it’s the first album in the band’s history to not feature founding vocalist Lacey Sturm, their fanbase vehemently split between Sturm and new vocalist Kristen May. For what it’s worth, my bet is the only thing New Flyleaf wants from Any Listener is for a Fair Shot. No preconceived notions of their sound, no barometer to compare them against. I feel I can offer them that.
The first few songs are actually upbeat jams, showcasing how powerful of an element a great frontwoman can be. Fortunately for Flyleaf, May sounds right at home in this sphere. Unfortunately, after the first few tracks, the album starts to come off the tracks. Stars starts to lose the wheels a little bit around the beginning of the fourth song. Early on, the album ventures into country territory; May’s voice can get twangy, and, because she also writes lyrics in storyline fashion, the track could be dropped on a Taylor Swift or Kelly Clarkson record and fit right in. May’s stories, though, are trite, Mad-Libbed or written by randomly pulling phrases from a jar filled with the approved radio rock lexicon.
The album never really seems to get back on track after that, but it doesn’t wreck the car. There are some slick tricks in “Thread,” where May turns into a pissed-off female Bono. Those bits and pieces pull the album up by its bootstraps, but even still, later tracks begin to just throw everything at the wall, starting with the kitchen sink, bass distortion, warble-phaser-keyboard back-to-back-to-back, Coldplay-style effects-laden guitar, a completely unnecessary scream in the middle of “City Kids” that sounds exactly like what screaming-for-screaming’s sake sounds like, bizarre chord progressions, and so on. The biggest issue, at the end of it all, turns out to be with demographics. Between the Stars is dripping with high school angst, pep rally war cries and I keep thinking the band is a fictional band in one of the shows. It does make for a diverse spread, but that also gives it a very distinct identity in its chaotic overuse. Between the Stars is out there, for sure, enjoying its flight in space. But, hey, a number of people love space flight, right?