It’s that time of year in which we seem to be getting quality album releases left and right, so more often than not, some gems end up getting swept away in the influx. For me, I typically have my list of ones to watch out for, and I stick to that before diving into the rest of the void. However, every once in a while some outliers will catch my ear. This is exactly the case for Strawberry Girls‘s latest, Tasmanian Glow.
My introduction to the Salinas-based progressive math rockers was enjoyable, yet very brief. My first time hearing them was when they opened for CHON and Polyphia at a tiny, artsy coffee shop venue called the Ché Cafe at a college campus in my hometown of San Diego – dare I say, before they were ‘a thing’. The venue hit capacity way too quickly, so we sat and listened from outside the cafe for the whole show, until finally being let in for CHON‘s final two songs. As exciting as Strawberry Girls sounded from the thralls of listening from a distance, I did not keep up with them too heavily from there. Not because the situation dampened the evening; it’s actually one of my fondest show memories. I just somewhat let them slip off the orbit of bands that live in my immediate consciousness. And boy, was that my mistake!
Tasmanian Glow opens with the thrillingly alluring “Bay of Fires”, which entirely set the tone for how exhilarating of an album it would turn out to be. Zachary Garren’s guitar introduction instantly reminded me of a track that would play during the most intense round of a colorful racing game. And as cheesy as that may sound to some, it snatched my attention to the fullest extent; as the song continued, it never let it go. Following the opener are two tracks that are just as engaging: the title track, “Tasmanian Glow”, and “Moonwalker”. Upon listening to these, I couldn’t help but get lost in the prolific chemistry of Garren’s guitar, Benjamin Rosett’s drums, and Ian Edward Jennings on bass. The trio packs a huge punch with this release, and it completely sucked me in to the point where I found myself replaying it again and again as soon as it finished.
As the album continues, we get into some more chilled-out vibes with “Baby Sprite” and “Mini Ripper”, the latter of which is my personal favorite of the bunch. I couldn’t help but pick up on the subtle hip hop-esque influences throughout the intro of “Mini Ripper”, which then drops into a metal-inspired build-up/breakdown dynamic. It leads out with some dreamy soundscapes and mindless, melodic mumbles of a pitched voice. This track is essentially my musical personality wrapped up all into one, so it definitely stuck with me the most.
Mentally, at least for me, Tasmanian Glow visualizes as an adventurous journey through an invigorating night out in a bustling city. One of my favorite things about instrumental albums is attempting to figure out the underlying story through the track titles, if there is one that is. The periodic hints of r’n’b-fueled inspiration throughout the album suggest each piece does indeed flow along with the next. This rings true especially on the closing track “Party Nights”, featuring vocalist Andrés, with the lyrics containing themes of partying with friends and celebrating life together. As a whole, it paints a beautifully captivating composition of living life to the fullest while we can.
Now I’ll be honest, progressive rock and metal are my favorite genres. So, when it comes to bands and albums that fall into those categories, I tend to be a bit picky. I could sit here and tell you how similar Strawberry Girls are to the aforementioned Polyphia, CHON, or even Plini. But here’s the thing: they’re not. In fact, none of those artists are similar to the other in my opinion, but I know how much flack prog music gets for ‘sounding the same’. However, Strawberry Girls have entirely outdone themselves with this one, and it has quickly become a contender for my favorite albums of the year. So, just hear me out here: if you are new to the bewilderingly satisfying world of progressive music, let Tasmanian Glow be your introduction.