Review Summary: Everything must go.Trouble
is uncertainty, shaky and unsure of itself but damn fine with going wherever it wants to. As a document of late 20s aimlessness, it’s the appropriate – the only, really – follow-up to 2012’s superb Hospitality
. That record was a pitch-perfect approximation of Indie Pop, emphasis on the glockenspiel and Zooey Deschanel sundresses, the kind of indie that is almost too blinding to look at, which is why everyone stares ahead and shuffles their feet pathetically at shows. Trouble
, meanwhile, can barely stand up. It stumbles from influence to influence with the halfhearted particularity of a weekend warrior deciding which brunch place is the ideal retox: bloody mary or mimosa or rent? If this sounds terrible, it’s because it should – the feel of generational angst, when you’ve left the nest but you still don’t really know how you’re not supposed to go back, like gravity is about to catch up with you before the next paycheck does. This is Trouble
in a nutshell. It doesn’t know what to do with itself, and in this case, it’s to its benefit: in its cracked lyrics and frantic embrace of ‘70s California rock, rambling rock, atmospheric folk and even bubbling synth-pop, it’s a record propped up by imagination and dreams, years worth of vulnerability and pent-up uselessness just sloshing over the surface.
If it wasn’t for Amber Papini, Trouble
would be a mess. Her voice is the one constant here, from “Nightingale’s” celebratory yelps to the fake apathy of “It’s Not Serious” and the desperate, sweaty “I Miss Your Bones.” Papini is the kind of wry, self-deprecating, somewhat unreliable narrator this portrait of confused young adulthood needs, holding the threads of an unraveling band together by force of will and a serrated wit. It’s to Papini’s credit that Hospitality can feel the confidence to traverse the darker territory they navigate here and still sound like essentially the same band that was picking flowers and laughing through the streets of Brooklyn in 2012, albeit with a willingness to stretch, however painfully. An epic like “Last Words” squirms and fidgets along its six-and-a-half minute runtime, a brooding, meandering piece of electro-pop with lyrics that read like a descent into some kind of personal hell. Instead of sounding out of place, it’s the logical climax of the record, its murky synths and twitchy, wandering guitar solo attempting to unfurl all the anxiety and turmoil endemic to the experience of growing up on your own.
That “Last Words” precedes the lovely, lounging “Sunship,” with its trumpet part like a rocket lazily spinning off into a suburbia sky, and “Call Me After,” a wistful torch song, is no surprise. Those latter two are the most peaceful of Trouble
’s grab bag of tones: “Sunship” a blissful and cleansing comedown; “Call Me After,” if not triumphant, at least accepting that yeah, sometimes things don’t work out, but overall this is a pretty damn fine time, young and in the city and in love, with someone or something or a dream, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a quiet euphoria that Papini hints at earlier, in the sunwashed disco vibe of “Going Out,” but where there you can sense the strain of reality fraying the edges of a weekend illusion, “Call Me After” is fully grounded in its narrator’s state of mind. There may be some misgivings, a knock to her confidence or even a defeat, but it’s not the crushing one Papini might have expected before. Trouble
is disjointed, often skating away from one comfortable spot before unwisely blundering into another, but it never feels anything less than right. This is the messiness Hospitality
hinted at but reined in, that record’s bright hues splashed every which way in a kind of beautiful Pollock. It may be unsteady, difficult to follow and, occasionally, to process, ugly even: but isn’t that how things are supposed to be when you’re learning? Trouble
is a brave step forward for a band unafraid to test its limits and a frontwoman unable to see any.