The band's fourth long-player and first outing with new vocalist Kristen May, Between the Stars finds the nervy Texas-based rockers dialing back on some of the more abrasive emo-metal and post-grunge elements that dominated past recordings in favor of a tighter, more pop-driven sound that leans harder on the Paramore side of the modern rock spectrum. May, who joined the group on the road in 2012 in support of New Horizons, lacks some of the grit of former frontwoman Lacey Sturm, but she's not without her own significant power source. Sturm could roar like an F4 tearing through tornado alley, but her signature scream is really the only thing missing from Flyleaf version 2.0. As per usual the songwriting is as sharp as it is steeped in emo-punk clichés, and the band is an undeniably well-oiled machine, taking to the more commercial approach with aplomb. The addition of May really bolsters that commercial appeal, as her clarion howl is both confident and clear, matching Sturm note for note in potency. Those pipes are put to the test throughout the 12-track set, lending immediacy to standout cuts like the propulsive, funk-kissed single "Set Me on Fire," the wistful and anthemic "City Kids," and the inspirational closer "Home," the latter of which, like the majority of the workmanlike Between the Stars, deftly juggles the muscular and the melodic without breaking a sweat in the process.
Between the Stars Review
by James Christopher Monger