Jack Antonoff (vocals/guitar) and Scott Irby-Ranniar (vocals) began what came to be known as Steel Train playing subways and alleyways in New York. A demo released in 2000 garnered considerable record label interest, and after signing to Drive-Thru Records, the two original members recruited Evan Winiker (bass) and Matthias Gruber (drums) to enter the studio. The newly formed quartet emerged with the band’s debut EP, the wondrous For You My Dear.
Before expressing himself in Steel Train, Irby-Ranniar was the original Young Simba in the Broadway production of The Lion King. His talents as a singer are undeniable, and his vocal partner Antonoff is impressive in his own right. Combined, the singers create a harmonious sound that can be either pleasing or depressing, depending on the mood of the listener. Antonoff plays tenor to Irby-Ranniar’s baritone, and is introduced through a cloud of distortion on “Blown Away,” giving him an initial sense of mystery. The dual singers play off of each other extremely well, especially in the EP’s title track. Antonoff preludes a passionate message with ‘For you my dear,’ and is immediately followed by Irby-Ranniar proclaiming to the adored, ‘I can fall from heights.’ The song is continued in this manner, the result being something stronger than either vocalist could have accomplished on their own.
Musically, For You My Dear is guitar driven. Antonoff knows how to jam, and he proves it unaccompanied on the instrumental track “W. 12th.” His guitar skills are diverse; at one moment, near the close of “Alley Cat,” he brings forth a Spanish twang from his acoustic. A few tracks later, he plugs in his electric and lets his fingers dance across the fretboard on “For You My Dear” in a fashion similar to classic rock guitarists of the 70s. Gruber takes a backseat to the exceptional guitar and bass playing of Antonoff and Gruber, but his composed beats work to create a mellow feel throughout.
The only real downfall of the EP is the closing song, “Night Falls.” It features Irby-Ranniar’s solo talents set alongside Antonoff’s acoustic guitar, and though the guitar is impressive, and the song is good, it’s also the weakest track. “Night Falls” suffers from the lack of a rhythm section and the silence maintained by Antonoff.
Even so, For You My Dear is a lucid dream. It’s the kind of music that is perfect to listen to over headphones while sitting by a window, staring outside at the rain. Staying home and dreaming away the life of an alley cat is made more than tolerable when set to sounds this sweet.