Even Stranger [EP]

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It would be logical to assume that if a band is named after a Gil Evans song, the band is going to be jazz-oriented or at least jazz-influenced. Solea's name comes from an instrumental that Evans wrote for Miles Davis' 1959 masterpiece Sketches of Spain, which combined jazz with Spanish flamenco. But Even Stranger, Solea's debut EP, isn't jazz and doesn't have even a trace of flamenco influence; they simply decided that they liked the name Solea and went with it. Solea's forte is alternative pop/rock with a slight punk influence, which isn't to say that any of the songs on this EP are abrasive or confrontational. Solea, in fact, is quite melodic and tuneful, and the lyrics are reflective rather than in your face. Of course, there was a time when "reflective" and "punk-influenced" were terms that one seldom heard in the same paragraph -- early punk, after all, was about shaking things up, not introspection. But times have changed, and in a post-'80s, post-Nevermind rock world, it is hardly uncommon to find bands that have some punk energy but are also into musical craftsmanship and pensive, thoughtful lyrics. Solea clearly fits that description on Even Stranger, which falls short of earth-shattering but is a sincere and well-crafted effort. While this EP won't go down in history as the most essential alterna-rock release of 2003, tunes like "Shuffle" and "Frankie Machine" nonetheless paint a likable picture of the band. Solea's best work may be yet to come, but the band's recording career is off to a decent start on Even Stranger.

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