BY MARK JENKINS
It’s probably for the best that STRFKR no longer spells out its original name, and not just because the f-word limits a band’s commercial prospects. The former tag promised an edge that this amiable Oregon quartet — expanded from its earliest incarnation as one-man band Josh Hodges — just doesn’t possess. STRFKR’s third full-length release, Miracle Mile, combines synth- indie- and lounge-pop; it’s bleepy, strummy and sleepy in equal measures.
This 15-song album is reportedly the group’s first fully collaborative effort, which may explain why the arrangements are more intricate and the grooves (sometimes) more driving. But the strutting bass and keyboard lines of such tunes as “Night Light” don’t significantly invigorate the languid songs.
Hodges’ vocals are boyish and passive, even when he ventures into falsetto soul-man range. The funkier side of the group’s personality, which suggests a bedroom-studio version of David Bowie’s neo-Motown mode, can be appealing. “While I’m Alive” opens the album with a persuasive groove, and “Malmo” is a pleasant homage to Peter, Bjorn and John (which may explain why it’s named for a Swedish city.) Less engaging is the wispier stuff, notably “Kahlil Gibran,” which features what sounds like an autoharp — an instrument no self-respecting fkr would play.
DOWNLOAD: “While I’m Alive,” “Malmo”