Album Reviews

The Kissaway Trail – Breach

(Yep Roc) UK release date: 26 August 2013

Kissaway Trail - Breach It’s been three years since The Kissaway Trail’s second album, Sleep Mountain, and in that time, it’s fair to say they encountered a fair amount of internal strife since then. Losing a pair of founding members (their guitarist and bass player) could have seen the band implode, never to be seen again. Instead, the band has continued as a three-piece and has started to make moves towards being more widely acclaimed than they ever could have hoped for originally.

Most of this is down to their presence on the recent adverts for Google Glass. If releasing albums doesn’t work, then a hugely viewed promo opportunity might just do the trick. Admittedly Google’s use of New Lipstick (albeit taken from Sleep Mountain) hasn’t pushed The Kissaway Trail into the limelight just yet, but it must surely have raised their profile.

Although the new slimmed down band sound an awful lot like the original quintet, Breach does offer an occasional step away from the Danes’ traditional fare, but somewhat incredibly the shimmering dream-pop and heartbreaking crescendos that defined their earlier work are still in evidence. Unfortunately, there’s still the odd lumpen track too – most notably the opening track Telly The Truth and the rambling Sara – which at least proves that the band are still operating in the same way that they used to.

After the disappointment of the opening track, Nørrebro offers some hope as it rumbles into life with an insistent drum pattern that suggests the band are simply itching to get rolling and charge into an emotive explosion. Yet for some reason they opt for restraint. It’s all pleasing enough, but it never delivers an adequate release; instead it just smoulders away and never really bursts into flame.

Cuts Of Youth is a step in the right direction. Musically it’s still restrained, but when the chorus hits, the wonderful group harmony vocals of “nothing else matters to me” push the band towards the heavens. The Kissaway Trail has frequently been compared to Arcade Fire and Flaming Lips and it’s easy to see why. Thomas Fagerlund’s vocals are but a step away from those of Wayne Coyne (and, it has to be said, those of Jason Lytle of Grandaddy). Which is fortunate, because they offer a peculiar innocence and childlike quality to the band’s songs that acts as a shortcut to inducing an emotional response. It’s most obvious on Cuts, but the similarity is also particularly striking on the band’s just-about-passable cover of Rainy Night In Soho. (Note to Wayne Coyne: Please do not cover the whole of Rum, Sodomy & The Lash for your next Record Store Day album.)

An early highlight is The Springsteen Implosion, a song that points towards a slightly more aggressive edge coming to the fore. It kicks off like one of New Order’s poppier moments before a seething guitar part causes the song to take a shift into angrier, more unhinged territory. Fagerlund might well sing “It’s you that I adore” but the tone of the song suggests that he might not be telling the truth, or that his adoration has escalated to dangerous levels. This slightly darker edge is also present in Beauty Still Rebels, which is driven by a threatening synth note. There’s no childlike wonder here at all, the lyric of “I do it all for you” sounds more like a begrudging statement rather than a devoted commitment.

So Sorry meanwhile plugs the gap left by the departures by introducing washes of reverb, ’80s synth and guitar work that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sonic Youth album. Shaking The Mote meanwhile returns the band to poppier surroundings with an earworm synth part and an undulating guitar line. The band’s artful use of a synth on some of these songs suggests that the next album will see real changes to The Kissaway Trail. For now though, Breach is a fine return, but will most likely be seen as a transitional album in years to come.

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More on The Kissaway Trail
The Kissaway Trail – Breach
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The Kissaway Trail @ 93 Feet East, London