Photo: Peter B. Samuels / Courtesy of Sacks & Co.

Triathalon’s R&B-Adjacent Jams Get a Bit Samey on ‘Spin’

Adam Intrator’s breathy vocals often mesh quite well with Triathalon’s music on Spin. That uniformity in style can also make every Triathalon track sound the same.

19 August 2022

Triathalon’s fourth album, Spin, comes four years after their previous record, Online. The trio wrote, constructed, and eventually finished recording it just before the pandemic shut everything down. Initially based in Savannah, Georgia, Triathalon moved to New York City shortly after Online was released. The change in location doesn’t seem to have affected their sound much, though. For better or worse, Spin retains the band’s mixture of chilled-out indie music and R&B.

Frontman and founder Adam Intrator sings in a relaxed, low-key style. His breathy vocals often mesh quite well with the music Triathalon create. That uniformity in style, though, can also make every Triathalon track sound the same. This is weird because there is clearly variety to be found throughout Spin. The vibe overwhelms everything, though, and that vibe is always, “It’s a slow, sunny summer day, but I’m working through some issues.” That’s specific enough to be interesting, although not, as it turns out, enough to hold that interest through 13 consecutive songs.

“Dreams” opens Spin with all of Triathalon’s signatures present. Vintage synths and organs abound, a simple guitar riff that’s just individual notes (no chords) recurs throughout the song, and easygoing drums lope along, keeping the track just below midtempo. Intrator sings slowly, with lines like, “I’m sleeping just to pass the time” and “Feel nothing when I’m wasting time.” The chorus is just two lines, each very extended: “Sleep cycle / Dreams I know.” The song does include a coda after the lyrics are finished. The tempo picks up to just a bit above mid-tempo, with a separate guitar riff and Intrator singing wordless “Ahh” throughout.

The second track, “Time”, emphasizes the “working through some issues” side of Triathalon’s sound. The song’s opening features a bunch of low-end, buzzing synth figures all piled up, while the guitar riff is similarly low and unsettling. Intrator’s singing can’t quite match the style of the instruments here, although he makes an attempt. “Time” also includes an uptempo section that gives it a bit of contrast, but it returns to the original speed near the end, locking in the original groove.

From here, Spin goes on a run of songs that all blur together. “XP” is a slow jam with watery guitars, slightly funky bass, and ever-present keyboard chords. “Floating in Love” is a more romantic, even slower jam with a seagull-sounding guitar interlude. “Die” is a mid-tempo track with slightly funky bass and ever-present keyboard chords. “Relax” turns up the watery guitar effects to about level eight, and the keyboards get into the wobbly act as well. Above it all, Intrator is there, always singing in his very relaxed, “just got out of bed and pressed ‘Record'” style.

Elsewhere, there are stylistic tweaks worth mentioning. “Running” features Intrator’s vocals run through a vocoder, hearkening back to the autotune heyday of the late 2000s. It also features an acoustic guitar intro that returns in the bridge. Other than that, though, the track is business as usual: 1970s-style keyboard chords, a simple one-note-at-a-time guitar riff, and drums that lazily tap along at just under midtempo. “Infinity Mirror” trades out the languid drums for a pair of 1990s breakbeat-style drum loops while returning to the vocoder vocals. The synths and vocals (there’s no guitar to speak of here) move at the same stretched-out, unhurried pace as the rest of Spin, dampening the effect of the fast drum loops.

The title track “Spin” gets into more of an unsettling, spy movie kind of feel, similar to the early work of Portishead. “Won’t Let You Go” features a simple but insistent drumbeat that somehow pushes the trio into a song where everything feels slightly upbeat. The guitar and keys aren’t exactly driving, but they’re at least going with the speed of the drums, which is notably different than in “Infinity Mirror”. The brief “Good Morning” is split into two halves. The first is just simple, sparse acoustic guitar chords and Intrator singing like his lips are directly against the microphone. The second half features equally sparse keyboard chords and a layer or two of vocal harmony. It lacks many elements that define the rest of Spin and is the only song on the album that feels like an actual departure.

Triathalon may sound sort of sleepy and unhurried, but they are quite focused on what they’re doing. There’s an audience out there that will be entirely in tune with their R&B-adjacent indie-rock slow jams, and those folks will likely really enjoy Spin. For me, though, the album primarily comes off as one long, rather dull 40-minute song. Maybe this is what listening to a Bad Religion record feels like to people who didn’t grow up with punk rock.

RATING 5 / 10