On October 12, 2004, one of the most anticipated releases of my adolescence hit stores. I had played the demos out, watched every video, and I waited for my main man John Nolan to step out of the shadow that was Taking Back Sunday and put out his own artistic vision, the self-titled “Straylight Run”. I can’t claim that the album was all that I had hoped for, but it delivered on plenty of levels.

Even though I was a year out of high school, “Existentialism on Prom Night” became the anthem for my youth that winter. My girlfriend of the time refused to sing in front of me, but on the right occasion she would belt out the lyrics, “Sing like you think noone’s listening” as strongly and confidently as I’m sure it was meant to be returned. “Thin-lipped gorgeous green eyes smiling” became the lyric of hope a few summers later, and “a failed attempt to capsulize a feeling” was a strong songwriting inspiration. Two songs off of the six-song demo were considered an A- and B-side, each playing off the other to create a greater sense of how members of Taking Back Sunday split off from the rising, successful band to form this new group that craved an identity and needed a definition. “A Slow Descent” did not make the album, and a disappointing version of “It’s for the Best” did. Regardless, Straylight Run represented the first step towards a maturity in music that my punk ethos desperately needed. It was the first step, but I didn’t realize these same songs would represent another leap five years later.