Review Summary: Wow. What a (pleasant) surprise.
In a year with countless music releases that failed to live up to expectations (some by wider margins than others), it's nice when an album that you have *low* expectations for surprises you. It's a nice breath of fresh air.
I thought Flyleaf was screwed when Lacey Sturm left and that they should've just broken up--even after hearing "Something Better" last year, which was a pretty decent song (and I'm actually a little disappointed it wasn't on this record--more on that later). I just didn't see hope for Kristen May replacing Lacey and doing well.
One thing I hadn't really counted on, however, was the fact that Flyleaf still has an extremely talented supporting cast. Hats off to the band around them, because they helped pull this release together. Kristen May, in the meantime, is no Lacey Sturm, but she is serviceable as a vocalist and at the least isn't annoying.
Stylistically, there's very little hard rock influence--"Set Me On Fire" and "Traitor" are a couple of exceptions. Also, "City Kids" has some oddly-placed screams in it (not from Kristen). The hard rock is replaced with more of an indie pop/rock style of sorts--and it works surprisingly well.
Highlights include "Set Me On Fire" (sure to keep older Flyleaf fans happy), "Platonic," the surprisingly powerful "Head Underwater," the radio-friendly "Marionette," the somewhat musically bipolar "City Kids," and the more obviously indie-rock/also radio-friendly "Blue Roses." Other songs that work very well too are "Traitor" (again, also should keep older Flyleaf fans somewhat happy), the catchy "Magnetic," and the well-vocalized "Sober Serenade."
There's really only a couple of complaints I have about this album. The one song that falls completely short is "Well of Lies," which has an extremely awkward keyboard effect in it--a horrendous attempt at sounding like a well, maybe" I'm not really sure. The worst part is that unlike a couple other songs like "Head Underwater," "Traitor" and "Blue Roses" which seem a little short, this one clocks in at a staggering 4 and a half minutes--the longest track on the album. And believe me, it feels just as long as it looks. And this is where "Something Better" and my other complaint come into play--that was a good intro for Flyleaf with Kristen. Why not axe the lame "Well of Lies" and put in "Something Better""
Despite this minor drawback, Flyleaf has pleasantly surprised me--I really thought they were finished after Lacey left. To me, Lacey *was* Flyleaf. And in a way, she still is--but Kristen and the talented band around her have done a very good job at creating a new sound that we can enjoy and not gripe about very easily if at all. So again, hats off to them.