Print Edition: October 23, 2013
Glacia, Western Jaguar’s (AKA Jeffrey Trainor’s) debut album, starts on a sombre note; the opening track, “Darby,” builds up from a simple guitar melody to incorporate horns, drums, electric guitar, and strings. An almost military snare sets the tone for the first half of the song, only to give way to crashing symbols and a synthesizer chorus of hopeful and triumphant tones. One gets the feeling that something has been achieved. “Darby” fades down to a single synthesizer note which gives way to the calmer “Karoo Mammals.”
Throughout the record, it seems that Trainor is speaking directly to the listener. Glacia seems like an auditory diary: personal, and full of the imperfections and human emotions that make this record so easy to connect with. “Year of the Flood” features a storm of a climax after a tranquil and simplistic first half. Trainor makes use of layering to achieve an engine of sound that takes the listener unawares. You can’t quite put your finger on when a track stops being a calm, three-in-the-morning-drive-through-the-city and becomes a roller-coaster, hurling down a severe incline at 90 miles per hour, only to slow back down to the relaxed, almost hesitant pace in which Trainor seems to be so at home.
“Mt. Baker” is as sombre a song as you’ll ever hear, but surprisingly, it isn’t depressing. Trainor uses reverb, creating an almost ethereal auditory atmosphere. It feels like being surrounded by a blanket of sound, playing like the soundtrack to a stroll through a moonless winter night, fresh snow at your feet. Trainor guides the listener through a cloud of sound that is seemingly made up of anxiety and indecision. Trainor reassures the listener that although there may be no discernible end in sight, one will get there, in time.
“Violet Sweatshirt,” however, seems somewhat shallow compared to the rest of the album. Sure, there’s an infectious guitar riff halfway through the track, and sure, it’s enough to make you tap your foot to the beat, but something is lacking. The type of depth so clearly demonstrated in songs like “Darby” and “Mt. Baker” is absent from “Violet Sweatshirt.”
The album’s crowning achievement, however, seems to be “Karoo Mammals.” This track boasts all of the spatial qualities that make “Mt Baker” such a strongly emotional track, coupled with the infectious guitar in “Violet Sweatshirt.” Here, however, this type of melodic guitar is used much more effectively.
Overall, Glacia seems to be Trainor’s open letter to someone. Who is it addressed to? Perhaps it is meant for Trainor himself, perhaps it is meant for no one in particular. Regardless, we should rejoice that Trainor saw fit to share Glacia with us. We are better off for it.