The Oakland band’s sophomore album is bright, optimistic and agile despite the weight on its mind.
The members of Trails and Ways poured the sounds and experiences of their overseas travels in countries like Spain and Brazil into the high-minded synthpop of their Barsuk records debut, Pathology. After touring extensively, two of the four members decided to leave the band. Keith Brower Brown and Ian Quirk remained and regrouped, setting aside day jobs in order to dive in to writing new material. Own It was recorded with time and fiscal efficiency in mind, but any such practical limitations only seem to have strengthened their resolve and focused their music.
Coming from Oakland, CA, where tech money run amok is sinking its teeth in, it isn’t surprising that reflections on capitalism and selfishness are the album’s guiding themes. Own It doesn’t wag its finger, though; it turns the questions inward. “Could you teach me to live without my things?” begins “How Do I Turn”, a conundrum that returns to the forefront on the album’s keystone track, “My Things”. Brown’s seriousness is underlined by his involvement in environmental work and more localized issues, but he always goes with the teaspoon of sugar instead of scold.
Own It is bright, optimistic and agile despite the weight on its mind. A step in the rock direction, but not too far removed from their more dance-oriented origins, these songs have crisp, melodic echoes of Phoenix, The Radio Dept., and You Forgot It in People. As the band beckons listeners to both “Face up to your true self and find catharsis!” and “Put a nail in capitalism’s coffin!” with equal zeal, Trails and Ways show their concept of revolution is as much internal as external.