Sunday, March 9, 2014

Knix Pick for Best New Album: Joyland

 Joyland is the sophomore album by Trust fronted by Toronto's Robert Alfons, and it is The Knix Pick for Best New Release.  I haven't been this excited about a new album since Gesaffelstein's Aleph was released in the fall.  Trust's 2012 debut album TRST was a dual effort with Maya Postepski, who left to focus on her role as drummer of Austra, an electronic band also from Toronto.  (May I remind you that Austra's Olympia was one of my favorite albums of 2013?  Just saying.)   Joyland is my first exposure to Trust, which may be a good thing. The reviews for TRST weren't all that flattering. Apparently a little one dimensional, the effort was deemed "gothic revival" in the snarkiest of manners.
No matter.  Robert himself indicated that Joyland is a departure from the first album in that he was trying for something more expansive and playful.  Thus, Joyland is best heard with fresh intentions.  The name of the album, by the way, is mildly ironic given Trust's relationship to the brooding Dark Wave of the early post punk era, which doesn't evoke thoughts of "joy" unless one is speaking of Joy Division.
Joyland mixes things up a bit by adding elements of the techno and acid house that Robert is a fan of to more eclectic influences like Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins.  And this will be charming for those of us who actually grew up when New Wave was new, and Atari was king.  Robert cites video games as an influence, having grown up without Internet.  I can relate.
The tracks range from the ethereal "Slightly Floating" to the danceable "Rescue, Mister."  Robert's vocals are reminiscent of the deep low baritone of Ian Curtis without his cold restraint or the more emotive gloom of Peter Murphy.  Give a listen to Murphy's album Deep to see what I mean.  Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters of Mercy comes to mind as well, though The Sisters have tried very hard in more recent years to part ways with their gothic past and sound a bit more hard rock these days.
Now just because I have a thing for synthpop, this doesn't mean every band that hints at an 80's revival gets a free pass.  Some of the newer bands don't get what was so exciting about the post punk period in musical history.  Hearing something that was innovative and new.  Then mainstream Top 40 bands got on board and it was over. Curiously, I've heard bands (with members too young to have been around for the Second British Invasion) quote as inspiration 80's era synthpop bands that weren't even interesting in the 80's. That said, it's that nod that Joyland gives to the past while still moving towards the future that makes it a compelling listen for me.

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