Strawberry Runners Shine on Long-Awaited Debut 'In The Garden, In The Night'
By James Cook
NYC-based Strawberry Runners have traveled many miles to get where they are now. Along the way they’ve picked up stories; ones of love and sincerity, as well as tales of conflict and pain. They’ve also soaked up the sounds of these many places, from the honest words of the Midwest to the modern atmospheres of our ocean coast cities. In 2013, those paths met and formed Strawberry Runners, originally based out of Denver, CO.
That’s where I first saw Runners, at a small Denver venue in the late summer of 2015. Their performance left a strong impression on me, and lead singer Emi Night’s lyrical melodies played in my head for weeks on end after it. At the time, there weren’t many recordings of Strawberry Runners. The group had been showcasing their rich sonic experience for a couple of years, and anticipation for a full release was building. That hope was almost shrouded in 2016, when news came that the group’s founder, Emi Night, would be moving to Brooklyn, NY. Fortunately for us, the move didn’t slow them one bit. Strawberry Runners’ first full release, In the Garden, In the Night, comes out on October 20, 2017 on Salinas Records.
In the Garden… wastes no time getting into it, opening with the subtle hop of “Garden Hose”. Electric guitar and bass lines begin simply, dressed lightly with subtle chorus and delay effects. In those thick, clean tones I hear the intention of each strum. The trust in sound brings me to the old-style folk and country that I envision playing on parent’s phonos at home.
What’s created is an open atmosphere, with Emi Night’s lyrics tying it all together. Night has a special ability to weave lyrics and tonal themes naturally, creative a cohesive sound from the beginning to the end of In the Garden.... In “Garden Hose”, they glide over indie-pop riffs, reminiscent of a laid-back Cranberries sound. In songs like “Trouble”, laced with harmonies from across the stage, I’m brought to the sounds of Laurel Canyon songwriters. The natural dips and curves of Night’s lyric writing clear the lanes for her message to resonate easily with the listener.
Though it may seem elementary, it should not be overlooked that on this album, Emi Night says what she means to say. With few poetic twists and turns to navigate, the listener can visualize these stories with ease. Listening to Strawberry Runners, you’re immediately invited to share in the experience. In our advanced world, the sincerity of these songs pierce the wash of available entertainment and allow the listener to really feel something.
Strawberry Runners creates many moments in this album that are content with a steady beat and a simple bass line. In general, production on this EP release is unobtrusive. Strawberry Runners performs extremely well on the album, and the songs more than hold their weight. My hope is that, for future releases (of which I hope there are), this group expands on their keen ear and takes a more ambitious sonic approach.
Throughout this EP release, Emi Night builds these stories of her own youth, and the places that held it, such as in “Dog Days”, title track to the first video produced for In the Garden, In the Night. That story, in “Dog Days”, finds an empathetic conclusion; grown children looking back to grasp the true moments of youth, only to be reminded of the reality of loss and responsibility.
A chorus disrupts the stillness, anchored by Emi Night’s cry of “Oh, I don’t feel ready… I do my best and pray the summer lasts...”. The progression of “Dog Days” echoes a sincere approach to tragedy that I hear throughout Strawberry Runners music. They tell stories of tragedy and age that recognize that strain life takes on us and conflict we’re left sitting inside. What are we to do with all this weight on our shoulders? While true resolution may always elude us, I think that Strawberry Runners has found the next best thing - you scream at the top of your lungs and create a beat that you can dance to.
If you’re on the East coast, check out their upcoming dates and see them in person. If you’re like me, these songs will enter your heart while you can’t help but move your feet.
In The Garden, In The Night is out on October 20th on Salinas Records. You can keep with with the band and see their upcoming tour dates on their website.