Over the past few months, we’ve been amused by Trails and Ways for not just their music, but the stories they have to tell about their songs. Their stories are extremely amusing, fun, and good-natured, and they provide an idea of how this young band generates their ideas.
These adjectives also describe Trails and Ways’ forthcoming new album, Pathology. Whether the band is wallowing in despair, contemplating the challenges of falling in love as a young person, or dealing with the end of the world (see below), the band’s music is infectious indie pop. Their sound, though, isn’t just regular, bubbly indie-pop. Instead, they dabble in electro-pop and pop music of the ’80s and ’90s as well as incorporate Latin and Hispanic touches, which is likely stems from the neighborhoods they grew up in Oakland.
It is on these songs – those with a bit of Latin flair – where Trails and Ways succeed the most, such as the hip-shaking “Mtn Tune” and the thoughtful “Terezhina”. The songs where the band draws influences from the past are also successful. “Say Will” is a melodic, groovy track that has a touch of funk in it. “Defined” has the feel of a song made for a ’90s coming-of-age movie with its smooth melodies and the touches of the keys.
The songs that are more contemporary indie-pop – along the lines of Passion Pit, Chromatics, and Stars – are a bit of mix bag. On “Skeletons”; “Nunca”, which has great bass line that gives the song its soul; and the summery, danceable “Jacaranda”, Trails and Ways seem more at ease on these songs and the songs flow naturally. The use of different textures, rhythms, and melody shifts give life to the songs. They feel vibrant, interesting, and lively. In addition, Trails and Ways restrain the instrumentation and the synthetics to allow all the pieces to shine through.
However on “Dream About Me”, “Vines”, and “Downright”, these songs have more of a top-40 feel and are overproduced. They lack the soul and originality of the previous songs, and musically they seem quite disparate from the other 8 songs on the album with the overdubs and overuse of synths.
Notwithstanding these three songs, Pathology is an entertaining album. The band’s harmonies are excellent, and they have a knack of creating terrific melodies and rhythms that can leave you daydreaming or dancing. The storytelling, at times, is excellent, in particular the ones that are more personal (e.g., “Terezhina”) or imaginative (e.g., “Skeletons” and “Jacaranda”).
The potential of Trails and Ways is tremendous. The direction they head in will be interesting to watch, but whatever path they choose there will likely be a great story behind it.
Trails and Ways are Hannah Van Loon (lead guitar, synths); Ian Quirk (drums, production), Keith Brower Brown (rhythm guitar, synths), and Emma Oppen (bass). A couple of stories on how the songs were conceptualized are below.
Trails and Ways will be touring with another Bay-area band, Waterstrider, whom we featured a few weeks ago. Dates are below.
The story behind “Jacaranda”
“Inspiration for the song comes from a teenage summer our guitarist/singer Keith spent in LA, feeling overexposed on AIM and LiveJournal, listening to The Velvet Underground for the first time.”
The story behind “Skeletons”
“The song’s origin is from a dream our rhythm guitarist Keith had. Basically, he was in a club hanging with Drake; Drizzy was wearing a gold Lycra suit and on acid. Suddenly the dream fast-forwarded a thousand years to what was left of the club on an ecologically collapsed earth. Then it spun back to our current time on the dance floor, but nobody else was there for Keith to talk to or warn about what he’d seen.”
Trails and Ways Tour Dates
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