Stranger Here

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Review of: Stranger Here
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On August 26, 2018
Last modified:January 28, 2019


Facedown Records’ newest addition, Weathered, shows the scene that sometimes it’s the quiet giant that cuts through the noise with the strongest voice. Bringing with them a powerful rock sound and gut-wrenching melodies, the Minnesota quartet delivers a poignant debut LP, Stranger Here, carrying the listener through the work, demanding them to catch every last inflection.

Vocalist Justin Hieb leaves a trail of urgency and desperation from track to track, pairing his style with a subtle complacency similar to Jesse Lacey of Brand New; his clean tone tremors every so often, reminding his audience to slow down. Equally enchanting, Hieb’s musical backdrop boasts tasteful harmonies, pure guitar tones, and soothing rhythms that ebb and flow like an ocean tide.

Weathered throws the listener into the deep end with the opening track, “Burn,” which serves as an eerie, intense undertow that drives the rest of the album. The understated guitar picks up in the second verse, following the kick drum’s accelerated tempo and alerting the listener that we’ve caught the current. Hieb then cries, “Burn it all dead / Cast it to the sea / I want to breathe again / I want to live redeemed.” And with that, the journey begins.

The following tracks settle into the band’s indie alternative sound with subtle-yet-key differences that set each song apart. The faint tambourine in “Lion’s Den” adds texture to the thick, clean riffs, and the open half-note chord changes in “There is One” clear a path for the drums and lyrics to push the song forward.

The listener is not left with a real sense of resolution, just the cold comfort of knowing they are not alone in their pain.

As the album progresses, “Blue Van” – the record’s halfway point – yields the only sonic outlier. With a simple acoustic guitar and vocal track, the band explores doubt and grief in solitude. Supporting harmonies admit, “I know that it’s not always comforting to hear that salvation is mine.” The listener is not left with a real sense of resolution, just the cold comfort of knowing they are not alone in their pain.

The same could be said about the next track, where Hieb sings, “I was the type of child held captive by the fear of loss.” The simple, one-line chorus in “Forget About Me” brings chills to your spine and pulls the listener back home with its straight groove and driving chords.

The last few tracks are more progressive in sound. It’s almost as if the band is braving the storm about which they’re writing by taking the helm and exploring what they can do musically. The eclectic chords in “Lying in Wait” accompany a long-awaited bass line. The experimental rhythms and potent coda in “Self-Deceiving Savior” bring the album to a landing in time for its final declaration in the last track, “I Do Not Belong Here.”

Stranger Here is the type of music that could be mistaken for poetry. It addresses human brokenness and sin – not with pity but with remorse, as if the greatest tragedy in life is a man who cannot lay down his cross in exchange for grace. The album itself takes a similar journey in sound, from what is acceptable and anticipated to what is new and brave. Weathered has an exquisite way of telling the transcendent story of the wreckage between being human and being called to more than humanity.


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