Joel Strauss - Don’t Lose That Feeling
Released January 18, 2014
By Charlie Dims
Listen to any Joel Strauss song and the first thing you’ll notice is his voice. It’s impossible to miss. It’s a distinctive, nasally drawl that has the earnest feel of a street singer. It cuts past any overrated concepts of glamour and instead tells the truth. Luckily, it’s also highly expressive, and is just as powerful when singing about wonder or about anguish, sweetness or bitterness, hope or hopelessness. It’s probably not a coincidence that all of these feelings are ones that come with relationships and, like many, Strauss is best when he’s in love. In See Thru, the closing track from his new LP, Don’t Lose That Feeling, Strauss summarizes a key part of what makes him so interesting: “With you, I’m going to be see thru.” While he is most likely talking to a lover, he could just as well be addressing his listeners. Strauss is not someone who is willing to beat around sentimentality or purple prose. He tells it straight, a considerable feat when entering the topic of love. Yet, don’t think that just because he’s not dressing up his words doesn’t mean he lacks creativity. On one of the album’s best tracks, Madeline, he sings, “I met a girl who felt so real, she said her name was Madeline/And we live on by the knowledge of the scientists/Who can make anything in life persist/Are you the clone, Madeline?/Were you once human?/Was your name on a list?” While these lines may not end up on a Hallmark card anytime soon, there’s something very sincere in the way that the narrator expresses the way we feel when we meet someone who seems just too good to be true. And it’s this sincerity that carries the song through its peaceful grace.
In other songs, this peace isn’t always there. Take I Just Gotta Know Now, another song about finding love that may not be mutual. “Take your time, hurry up, tell me tell me whatever”, Strauss sings, effectively conveying the anxiety and anticipation of waiting until that special someone tells us they want us the same way we want them. Yet, even with the frustration the narrator displays, the music remains lighthearted, a point that goes back to the theme of the album as a whole: Don’t lose that feeling. Like an encouraging friend in the dark, Strauss’s ability to find the light beyond the shadows makes him an artist worth keeping.