Northern Transmissions reviews "Trilngual" by Trails And Ways

Artist: Trails and Ways
Album: Trilingual EP
Label: Non-Market
Rating: 6.7

In the early to mid-2000’s there seemed to be a lot of electro-lounge music that employed “bossa nova” beats. It seemed that way to me because my girlfriend at the time worked at some lounges that would play this music. The purpose was to give the place a low-key musical ambiance while still seeming lively. The problem though was that when “bossa nova” beats are employed in this way, they become very stale and boring to the point of annoyance. “Bossa nova” literally means “new trend” so I suppose at the time, for electro lounge, it was appropriate. However back in the 60’s the jazz/samba fusion that produced “bossa nova”, seemed to have more flair, bite, and relevance. Oakland’s “Trails and Ways”, who are releasing their latest EP Trilingual, are a group that describe themselves as “bossa nova dream pop”. Since “dream pop” is a new trend in music, you could almost call their style “new trend new trend”. The 5 song EP however while having a few peppy moments, does not bring out the best of the marrying of the “bossa dream nova pop”.

Trilingual, at 5 songs is an album that makes its statements early on. “Como Te Vas” may be the best song, a very catchy rhythm that establishes a fun and upbeat sound with claps and finger snaps, it’s really more of a toe-tapper than a dancer. It works as the best song on the EP because of the vocals which take the beat to a higher level. “Nunca” is the next track, this time employing some guitars into the beat that originated in Brazil. I thought at first that the male singer (the entire band credits credits everyone as singers) was saying “NoCal” which seemed almost appropriate that a breezy track about roller-skating and graffiti art would be their “NoCal” shout out. “Nunca” however is slang for “never”. “Tereza” is the track which will probably make or break how you feel about the band, because it tends to drift more into their “dream pop” tendencies, so if you were into more of the “bossa nova” beats, you may start to nod off here. The track does work, however it marks the transition to the next two tracks, which start to bring some malaise into their sound. “Border Crosser” really starts your descent into sleepy town with a “train whistle” that leads a dream poppy number that sounds like it would find a nice home in those lounges that want that uplifting-laid-back atmosphere. ”Mtn Tune” finishes off the EP with a return to the bigger bossa nova beats from the beginning, but doesn’t quite capture the magic. Disregarding the annoyance of an unnecessary abbreviation of the word “mountain”, there is a falseness to the sound as if they’re really trying to capture a mood just for the sake of perhaps being a “summer song”, something that you would take to one of those man made resort beaches.

I would not be surprised if one or two of these tracks, especially “Como Te Vas” or “Nunca”, make it on to some playlists this summer, but as a 5 song EP it doesn’t do much for me. Sure I’ll eat my lounge food, and sip my beer while I hang out with my friends, but I’m not enjoying the casual listening experience. “Bossa nova” may need to find a new trend to latch onto, because “Trails and Ways” haven’t convinced me that it totally works with “dream pop”.

-Michael Unger

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