“Have you ever seen Midnight Cowboy?” Fred Nixon asks. The 27-year-old is explaining what it’s been like for him and fellow native Montanan Isaac Eiger — his 26-year-old partner in the shape-shifting indie-rock band Strange Ranger — to recently move to Philadelphia after a lifetime out west.
The reference to the 1969 Best Picture winner about a Texas cowboy (Jon Voight) who moves to New York City and becomes entangled with the seedy hustler Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) is supposed to be a joke, I think. Eiger and Nixon actually seem to like their new urban surroundings. You could even say they thrive from constant change. That’s true musically, at least.
Strange Ranger is one of the best and most adventurous young bands in indie rock, capable of putting out an EP, 2018’s How It All Went By, of thrillingly noisy basement jams, and then following it up with the sparkling dream-pop of the forthcoming Remembering The Rockets, which comes out July 26 from the excellent indie label Tiny Engines.
While How It All Went By climaxes with the screaming, guitar-heavy catharsis of “Remember,” Remembering The Rockets is centered on drum machines and the Korg 1 synthesizer, a staple of pop and alternative rock records in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The Cure’s Disintegration, in particular, was a predominant influence, which is apparent on lush and languid pop songs like “Your Dog” and “Nothing Else To Think About.” Elsewhere, instrumentals like “athens, ga.” and “’02” reflect the duo’s recent fascination with electronic artists like Yves Tumor and Oneohtrix Point Never.
This contemplative music is ideal for the searching quality of Eiger’s lyrics, which address the anxiety of planning for the future at a time when so much about the world is currently in a state of flux. “What if I just want a family?” he wonders on the evocative, slow-mo synth-rocker “Living Free.”