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Sub Pop

jaill_trapsTraps is Jaill’s third full album, and their second for Sub Pop. That they’ve been around for 10 years and only managed three albums in that time suggests that they might well be immersed in the slacker ethic that enshrouded some of Sub Pop’s bands back in the late 80s/early 90s. Still, we’re not here to criticise a band’s work ethic, it’s the end result that counts after all. Traps might be a bit of a patchy, beige affair, but it does possess some redeeming features. Disengage your brain entirely, take in the summery tones of the album and it’s actually not a bad set of songs. Pay too much attention and it all seems a bit bland and overwrought.

It starts well with ‘Waste A Lot Of Things’, a breezy pop tune that initially sounds as if its wearing a massive grin on its well tanned face. Under the sunny disposition there are lyrics awash with darkness, the odd lost mind and a dollop of sadness, the kind of thing that’d bring down any sun-kissed holiday – like sand in your sandwiches.

Frankly Vincent Kircher’s a bit of a buzz kill on this album, for all the uplifting backing vocals (which are reminiscent of label mates Fruit Bats) and surf-guitar breaks, he’s there, banging on about his sexually frustrated girlfriend or whatever. ‘Everyone’s A Bitc’h is a perfect example of this. It kicks in with a nicely serrated new-wave riff throws in a bunch of great harmonies, and then Kircher’s there moaning about how his (ex) woman thinks he’s a bit vanilla. Whether he’s aware that she’s using gay slang to describe his prowess is open to debate, as he seems to think it’s something to do with ice-cream.

At this point, it’s worth considering whether it’s better to ignore what Kircher’s going on about and just concentrate on how he sounds because there’s more misery on the way with ‘Horrible Things (Make Pretty Songs)’. Yet here it works so much better, there’s no juxtaposition of breezy pop tunes and sorrowful lyrical content, it just cuts to the chase. “No one to take care of, no one to take care of me” Kircher intones over a delicately strummed acoustic guitar; the heartbroken lyrics fitting perfectly.

‘I’m Home’ opens like a high pitched take on The Breeders Cannonball before turning into a spiky pop-nugget complete with woozy keyboard interjections. ‘House With Haunting’s laid back swing is pretty good fun but doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s a similar problem with ‘Madness’, which is a nice sounding if unrewarding strum. Yet for all these misfires, when the band and Kircher are on the same page emotionally, everything clicks. Million Times’ heart-rending sob story fizzes with a palpable tension and it is arguably the best thing on the album by some stretch.

They close out with ‘Stone Froze Mascot’ which is catchy enough but lacks enough force to smash its way into the pleasure centres. It’s this lack of force and focus that hinders the album; ultimately it’s a nice enough but Jaill and Kircher in particular sound a little confused. By the end, it’s easy to see why his girlfriend legged it hurling ice-cream related insults, sometimes you need a little bit of unadulterated excitement.

Sam Shepherd

On tour in the UK:

Sep 25 – Green Door Store, Brighton, UK
Sep 26 – Sebright Arms, London, UK
Sep 27 – Soup Kitchen, Manchester, UK
Sep 29 – Stereo, Glasgow, UK
Sep 30 – Stereo, York, UK
Oct 1 – Oporto, Leeds, UK