Traps is Jaill’s second release on Sub Pop after 2010′s That’s How We Burn and their third record as a band. Their first album, There’s No Sky (Oh My My), was released on Burger Records as Jail. Apparently Sub Pop forced them to change their name as there was a European band named Jail years ago. Nirvana never had to change their name when they signed to the majors. Oh well…Nirvanaa sounds awkward.
Jaill has had a revolving door of members since their formation in 2003. The current line-up consists of Vinnie Kircher, Austin Dutmer and Andrew Harris. Jaill’s sound is a fuzzy, campy take on early 80′s power pop. Like a handful of cult-status bands, they self-consciously celebrate the dweeby pop wallflower. Basically, jangle-dorks.
If everyone was hip on That’s How We Burn, “Everyone’s a Bitch” on Traps. On this track, Kircher cries: “‘What if I stay just on one side?’ Then she calls me ‘vanilla sex life.’ Didn’t know she wanted rocky road.” It’s incredibly corny, but it may elicit a chortle the first couple of times through…0r more. It’s one of those hate-to-love anthems. Kircher goes on to aggressively challenge “friends of foes” and one can only picture the drunken nerd who’s ready to throw down at a bar after a few too many PBRs.
Aside: I may just be projecting here, but for almost a week I thought the singer was being called “the Miller Sex Lite.” Everybody knows that a guy’s performance can be compromised due to intoxication. Part of me wishes that the girl just wants a drunk guy that’s got a little more kick…“Didn’t know she wanted Smuttynose.”
The strongest track on the albums is “Perfect Ten” and is also the most heavily weighted in glam and 60′s pop/rock. The dorky narrator who has slipped into the ‘friend zone’ wonders if he might be admitted back into his best female friend’s life as a lover. Picture Marc Bolan wearing safety glasses. The brief, warbling solo achieves more than others on the album.
“House With Haunting” sounds like a combination of Chutes Too Narrow-era Shins and The Unicorns, except not quite as catchy as either artist on their game. A pathetic dude losing his girl to a ghost who “listens closely” is humorous, though. “Madness” is simply maddening. “Million Times” fails to be of interest for half of its short duration and then assumes a Flaming Lips-esque bass-heavy groove which is too little too late.
“While You Reload” begins with an Is This It? Strokes drum beat before Kircher’s wry lament, “Gave myself a good grade for barely losing my shit.” The image of an emotional martyr who shoots high waiting to be shot down works well enough. The dog metaphor is extraneous and the abrupt, ‘nail-clipping’ outtro almost kills an otherwise snappy song. “Stone Froze Mascot” is charged boredom.
The album does have its moments of cleverness and snaring hooks proving Jaill’s songwriting capabilities both lyrically and musically, but it’s more of a pleasant album to zone out to. A better name for the album might be Mine Field, which is a trap in a sense; a carefree moment of pop bliss can be destroyed by stumbling onto a minor bomb a track later.
Noteworthy Tracks: “Everyone’s a Bitch” and “Perfect Ten”
For those of you who like mock barfing, check out the video for “Perfect Ten.” It may be the strongest song on the album, but I’m not sure what the video accomplishes outside of being entirely filthy. I had envisioned a silly sullying of Alexander Hamilton’s duel with Aaron Burr, introducing romance. The video’s grotesque, but at least it’s colorful…