Review Summary: The vibes are chill.
Trade Wind is a kept secret for those who enjoy Sparta, Brand New and even some Thrice from their later catalogue entries. The singer and main songwriter Jesse Barnett is no stranger to the industry. Among a few solo releases, as well as another project called Ways Away, he also fronts Stick to Your Guns, which stylistically is very different: a California hardcore band. This record is a follow up to the Trade Wind 2016 debut “You Make Everything Disappear.” The debut was fresh and full of well-produced hooks and atmosphere, though nothing you couldn’t find in the releases mentioned above. Upon hearing that release I couldn’t help but wonder what could possibly set these Trade Wind releases apart from the pack.
In walks “Certain Freedoms”, which takes much of what we hear in their previous release but seems to meander and ease its way more delicately into the ears. From the jangly opener “Surrender” to the anthemic “No King but Me” the vibes are chill. Barnett can go from a whispery sweet vocal and immediately switch to belt out the simple chorus here. The production is slick but understated without signs of too much flash. It makes the simple tunes stand out. From reading along, the content clearly illuminates a failed relationship, and the atmospheric flourishes and open-ended lyrics seem to enhance the feelings of loss and being lost in it’s wake.
The atmosphere continues as we traverse the body of the record. “I Can’t Believe You’re Gone” brings an eerie trip-hop/R&B aspect underneath a gorgeous vocal melody. Barnett’s silky-smooth vocals ease you further through the record as it truly ebbs and flows from quiet pessimism, to understated anger that never explodes from behind the music’s cool reservation. The title track is a standout, with a fully fleshed out structure typical in most pop songs, with a brilliant piano melody that drives a refrain out of the chorus. The songs immediately dive back down into the atmospheric murk, and typical song structures fall away. “Moonshot” and “How’s Your Head” seem to lull and swim in an ocean of reverb, with subtle statements lyrically. I find it amazing how Barnett and company can bring forth such deceptively simple musical ideas and then flesh them out just enough to get the point across. The simple nuggets leave you treading water and craving more.
“Beige” is another standout, which is a shoegazed rocker. Barnett belts “I got out, and I’m not going back now!” at the end of the song bringing hair to attention. It must be said the melody of this line, simple… perfect… is accentuated with acoustic guitar so effectively, and haunts wonderfully.
Almost two years old now, “Certain Freedoms” still resonates with me. It reminds me of the emo of the past and moves forward the emo of today. It also highlights an extremely motivated and hard-working artist in Jesse Barnett. The releases have kept coming from different directions as though he is looking for that perfect space to launch his thoughtful music, with help of course. I’d be remiss if I ignored the extremely talented characters he brings into his musical circle. Do yourself a favor and fall down the rabbit hole of wonderful music surrounding this man. There is so much to be lauded.