I first saw the Local Strangers at a Warehouse show at Anthem in downtown Tacoma and was immediately impressed by the smooth, powerful vocals of Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart. The band’s presence and full sound makes for an incredibly engaging live show and their debut album, Left for Better, is a vocally, emotionally, and sonically beautiful album that is immediately being put on the need-to-spin list of 2012.
Left for Better was demanded by fans along a tour-heavy path over the last year and was funded by over 200 supporters on Kickstarter. This debut for Hart and Zoli is a complete piece of work ranging all over the gambit that this band is capable of. The lead single, “Mr. Blackberry”, is a pop country hit with a great driving beat that will get your toe tapping early and “Uptown” is Lumineers-esque with a harmonious lead-in and Hart taking the lead over a very clean acoustic guitar strum. The styles on this album range through various levels of folk, country, pop, and acoustic tunes with the Strangers showing competence in each genre.
Zoli’s country-infused vocals are heart-melting. Do yourself a favor and put on some serious headphones, crank them up, and hit play on my favorite track, “Daniel”. Goosebumps are inevitable. Her voice makes me feel like the Strangers should be gracing the stage of the Grand Ole Opry with the quiet strength of Patsy Cline and the sweet and sultry mix of Shania Twain.
The style the Local Strangers are bringing to Seattle from the Midwest is unlike their counterparts. The Strangers aren’t the northwestern hippie folksters that have been coming out of the area the last few years (The Head and the Heart, Fleet Foxes) as they tend to have a less earthy and more refined style. Although, parallels can be drawn with the Head and the Heart as the Strangers collaborated with their producer, Kevin Matley, on their debut.
This is a strong debut for the newcomers. While the genre-jumping does create for less of a natural flow through the album, the fact is that there are 11 very strong singles with an entertaining range on this album. As these talented musicians continue to grow together, I expect future endeavors to gel even better and create strong follow-ups. Catch the Local Strangers when they’re in your town because you will not be disappointed!