opener, “Waste a Lot of Things,” finds frontman Vincent Kircher repeating the line “yes it’s very sad” over an upbeat kick drum and bright, reverberating guitars. With its sunny guitars and bouncing rhythm, the song’s tone seems more fitting for a beach romp than for a confession that Kircher tends to waste the good things in his life. Such is the case for much of the album, Jaill’s second for Sub Pop Records.
That is probably intentional, considering there is a song titled “Horrible Things (Make Pretty Songs).” In it, romantic acoustics serve as a backdrop for Kircher lamenting that he has “no one to take care of/ no one to take care of me.” Jaill rarely marries auditory tone with thematic tone, resulting in carefree sounds depicting tales of bitterness and despair. The conflicting tones create an underlying tension, as if Kircher is trying to mask his pain with a smile and an unwillingness to delve too deep into the negative emotions. Doing so comes at a cost, though. Because the songs only scratch the surface of the inner turmoil, Traps is catchy but rarely evocative.
Jaill’s brand of power pop is all reverb, shimmering guitars, and vocals that recall Gaz Coombes (Supergrass). As individual songs, each track has just enough rock to get you moving and just enough melody to get you singing. As a collection, though, much of Traps
fails to inspire, with each song sounding familiar and few pushing the envelope in an attempt to stand out.
A few striking moments show how good Jaill can be. A funky bass groove in “Stone Froze Mascot” gives the song an aura of danger. The grungy guitar tone of “I’m Home” gives it a hint of anger, something that’s missing from the smiling self-pity that characterizes most of the songs.
Still, those finer moments can’t make up for the fact that when Jaill is bad, they’re really bad. Traps
’ worst moments come in the form of hackneyed wordplay, bad metaphors, and perfunctory descriptions. There are plenty of throwaway lines like “I waited for you all night/ but you didn’t come.” In “While You Reload,” Kircher compares himself to a dog, saying “you don’t need protecting/ and I’m a bad dog nonetheless/ Would have let you clip my nails/ if you’d only asked.” In “Everyone’s a Bitch,” Kircher compares sex to ice cream (“Then she calls me vanilla sex life/ I didn’t know she wanted Rocky Road”).
That’s not to say that Kircher doesn’t have good moments as a songwriter, but too often his attempts to portray his bitterness with tongue in cheek result in awkwardness or cliché. Two albums into their Sup Pop catalog, Jaill still has some growing to do.