[6 March 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Bobby Wratten’s Trembling Blue Stars’ albums can be very hit-or-miss affairs. Usually there are one or two stand-out moments to make the albums worthwhile, but consistency usually falls away in favor of overproduced, lackluster tracks that overpopulate the records. But here, the four tracks on Exploring the Shadows are consistently good. They’re not all excellent—opener “Beautiful Blank” is catchy but done in by cheesy lyrics—but on the whole it is a solid, and short, collection of Wratten’s rainy-morning pop. And it also has the requisite stand-out. “Outside Looking Elsewhere” is the best version here of Wratten’s insulated melancholy, as the dreamy, acoustic-driven background eschews the electro-by-the-numbers elements that so often derail the Trembling Blue Stars sound. The following track, “And the Shadows”, does manage to tip its predecessor’s careful atmosphere into something far more plodding, but overall Exploring the Shadows is a solid offering from Trembling Blue Stars that both long-time fans and the uninitiated can enjoy. Perhaps, in the end, the EP format is what best suits Wratten’s talents.