Apart from having a really cool name, Trail of Dead (my preferred abbreviation) make some incredible music. Being an avid fad, there was no doubt in my mind that I would write something about them very soon. But the question was, which album to feature? Their latest? The album that got me into them? Or perhaps the album that scored them 10/10 from Pitchfork? Well clearly I never came to a decision because I’ll be writing about them all. For those who don't know, Trail of Dead are an indie-rock band from Texas, USA and these are their last three albums, in the order I discovered them.
Worlds Apart (2005)My first introduction to Trail of Dead came when a couple of songs off this album were played on the radio. I can’t remember which they were, but they caught my attention and prompted me to look into the whole album. Every time I listened to it however, I felt nothing. The songs just washed over me and nothing sounded particularly special. I actually gave the album a fair go of at least 5 listens, but after that it was put aside. Around a month later, I thought I’d give it another try; I was blown away. As song after song came on, I felt intimately connected to each, like I had loved them for years. I really can’t explain it, but it’s a feeling that’s remained with me ever since. If I was to describe Trail of Dead’s sound, I would call it epic rock music. Each note is played with such intensity that you’re drawn right in and become immersed in the experience. Their music is delivered with such passion that it seems to transcend the mere entertainment value of music. It feels more like an important message is being delivered, a message with a higher purpose than you will ever understand. Put this album on and you’ll be swept away as all else ceases to be relevant. Each songs flows seamlessly into the next so that album comes off as one complete piece. A work of art that makes you want to just sit back and admire. Trail of Dead create a grandiose sound that other bands could only dream of. The album opens with a choir chanting a phrase with ever increasing intensity. It grows from a faint murmer to a thundering roar before it reachs a climatic scream and the album is officially kicked off. It is this sort of ambitious sound that makes this album so brilliant. I always find this intro quite amusing because it sounds like the choir is actually chanting "this is so exhausting!" (Edit: Apparently they're not. Such a shame)
Sample 1 – Worlds Apart
Sample 2 – Will You Smile Again?
If this album has shown me nothing else, it’s that every individual’s Trail of Dead experience can be very different. Many will argue that all that talk I gave for Worlds Apart of an epic sound and musical brilliance belongs here instead. This is the favourite album for the vast majority of Trail of Dead fans and as I mentioned earlier, received a perfect 10 from the giants of musical critque, Pitchfork Media. This is no mean feat, with only a select few albums ever achieving this prestigious honour, and yet personally, I can’t get into it. As listen to it, I can see hints of the brilliance others talk of, but it fails to have an impact on me. I’m still waiting for the moment to arrive, as with Worlds Apart, where the songs evolve from a hazy blur into intricately defined masterpieces. My only explanation for this not occuring is because their music has an acquired taste. Since it takes quite a few listens to appreciate, it may be harder to get into a second album while the memory of the first is still vivid. That or I just have a distorted perception when it comes to their music. This later theory was strengthened by a review of Worlds Apart I once read, where the author said they loved the album, all except for the title track; my favourite song. This inconsistency is why I decided to do all three albums; listen to them all and see what you think for yourself. I can’t really say much about Source Tags and Codes because I don’t know it very well. But what I can say is that this album is adored by many and you may adore it too. The respect for this album is so great that despite not particularly liking it, I will continue listening to it in the hope that something just clicks.
Source Tags and Codes (2002)
Source Tags and Codes (2002)
Sample 1 – How Near How Far
Sample 2 – Relative Ways
I got quite excited when I heard about this album, but when I finally got to hear it, I thought it was a joke. Instead of the smooth flowing feel of their last two albums, this effort was an erratic mix sounds, that as package, held no sense of direction of continuity at all. Half the songs didn’t even sound like they’re own and if I hadn’t just put in their cd, I would never have guessed them as Trail of Dead songs. There were cowboy stomps and euphoric indie frolics, all haphazardly dumped in amongst the occasional signature song. The album could be described as nothing more than a lazy mess. Well that’s what I thought a month ago. Now that the dust has settled, I have actually come to really like this album. What I previously saw as blasphemy, I now see as a fresh take on a much-loved sound. That said, I still see it as a flawed album and a definite step backwards. I can’t help but feel like they didn’t try as hard. It lacks the sense of wholeness that made their last two albums so great. Fans of the band should find it quite enjoyable, as it contains a fair few brilliant songs, the likes of which we have come to expect. But I’m afraid that anyone looking for another masterpiece will be disappointed. If you've never listened to Trail of Dead before, I actually think this wouldn’t be too bad a place to start. Unlike their previous work, there doesn’t feel like there’s a great barrier that must be overcome before you can start enjoying the music. But if you’re looking for pure brilliance, you should probably look elsewhere.
So Divided (2006)
So Divided (2006)
Sample 1 – Stand in Silence
Sample 2 – Eight Day Hell
It's not a matter of whether to buy one of these albums, but which. Good luck choosing!