Indie rock outfit STRFKR prides itself on producing danceable pop music with ethereal qualities added for a unique flair. On its newest single, “Budapest,” the group attempts to turn back the clock to the more guitar- and drum-driven sounds of its early music. Released March 27, the song, while successful at capturing the basic sound structure of the band’s previous work, doesn’t bring anything innovative to the table.
The vocals are a treat, delivered with a lo-fi, wispy nature. They’re pleasing to the ear, but the mostly meaningless lyrics prevent lead singer Josh Hodges’ voice from having much weight in the larger scheme of the song. This type of vocal style is the default for STRFKR’s songs, intending to draw attention to the catchy pop hooks, guitars and synths that usually makeup its music. On “Budapest,” however, the instrumentals are, to say the least, uninteresting, which makes this a lose-lose situation for the band.
In an attempt to be a dreamy but more energetic version of a shoegaze song, “Budapest” stays on the conservative side. STRFKR doesn’t take hold of the musical reins and command them. The song sounds like elevator music that fades into the background instead of imprinting itself in listeners’ minds. The tune has elements, such as the use of synths and the delicate vocals, which have immense potential to elevate the song and make it exciting; however, none of them are prominent enough to make a difference.
The group has certainly put out much more interesting songs. Much of the band’s brand is a strain of laid-back pop, but too much relaxation in the name of upholding a certain type of sound can lead to a lack of energy and creativity. That’s not to say STRFKR didn’t put enough effort into the song — it did, but in the wrong aspects. The foundational melody is a strong start, but instead of building on it or adding an unexpected twist, the band just cycles the same underlying backbeat. The general quality of the song is decent, but it’s frustratingly mediocre.
STRFKR can do better. It’s consistently proven before that it can, with significantly more stellar songs on albums like Starf— and Reptilians. “Budapest” is a catchy song, but it’s superficial. Hopefully, this song is a faux pas, a lapse in judgment and not a hallmark of the band’s music to come. If rumors are true and “Budapest” is the first taste of STRFKR’s new album, listeners can only hope that this track is the only blasé one present.
On “Budapest,” Hodges sings, “Keep it in your mind/ No one remembers at all.” Instead of the first line applying to the song, unfortunately, it’s the second one that resonates more.