Trains Followed Us – Sinking, Sleeping
Record Label: Unsigned
Release Date: January 2008
I usually subscribe to the idea that a great album is a great album is a great album (is a great album). Setting doesn’t matter. Mood doesn’t matter. Company doesn’t matter. I could be falling off a cliff onto a bed of spikes and Pollyanna would still sound great. Well, the songs I could hear over my uncontrollable screaming and pants-wetting would sound great. Sinking, Sleeping spent a solid week in my car. This is usually a good sign. No, this is usually a fantastic sign. But something about removing the music to the confines of my home office didn’t translate. I didn’t receive the same feeling of intelligence and brooding atmospheres. When my mind was completely focused on the notes and words being pumped out, I wasn’t feeling the same sense of fulfillment. Is this asshole-ish nitpicking? You betcha. Trains Followed Us are good on my laptop and great in my car, which makes them goeat overall. Put that in your press release and smoke it!
There’s no avoiding the similarities between Matt Brame’s voice and that of former The Junior Varsity singer Asa Dawson. Brame has a very lax style in that his voice just kind of loops around the instruments in no particular fashion. It’s an excellent accompaniment to the fluid riffs pumping through on songs like “Shallow Sea Salvation” or “Cloud City.” (The latter song could have easily landed on TJV’s Wide Eyed.) “Lucid Vessel,” however, helps to differentiate the two bands. Trains Followed Us will spend time bouncing around in the riff stratosphere, but then they will also bring some heavy, headbanging-lite riffs into the bridges and choruses. “Lucid” goes even a step further by including a technical and melodic guitar solo. These songs don’t stick to regular verse-chorus-verse-naptime structures, either. Most of the tracks are well over four minutes and take unforeseen left turns (like the acoustic slowdown on “Lately The Mirror Lies”). Even with all this work going into keeping Sinking, Sleeping from sounding like just another heady pop album by Armor For Sleep’s biggest fans, the tracks tend to blend beyond recognition. The upside of this is, of course, if you really, really like one song, you’ll really, really dig Sinking, Sleeping.
Brame’s lyrics and the album’s production values (it was recorded in a living room) were the biggest ear-openers for me. Slightly philosophical and depressing lines like, “Sell me some more answers / For questions never asked / It’s ok if you don’t look back / Find me a new reason / To leave my house again / It’s lonelier when I admit them,” fit the tone of the instruments wonderfully. The way a dark guitar rumble melds with drooping lyrics explains how unhappy people fall in love. And truly, the band needs to pat themselves on the back for being able to create this largely ethereal album in such unfavorable conditions. It’s hard to rock on Mars when American Idol is on in the other room.
It comes down to this: Do I regret recommending Trains Followed Us in the Self-Promotion Spotlight? Not one bit. The band would do well to try and further carve out its own identity. They might even try experimenting with new (non-pop) instruments. The potential is easy to hear, and if they have any more songs like “Shallow Sea Salvation” saved up, you’ll be seeing another (happier) review in the future.
Recommended If You Like: The Junior Varsity, Lovedrug, backstabs, Armor For Sleep (when they aren't bitching about New York neighborhoods), NOT jumping off cliffs