Release Date: Jun 12, 2012
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Two years passed between Jaill's self-titled Sub Pop debut and their follow-up, 2012's Traps, and while not a complete retread, the album is a lot like the first. Their sound still consists of sunny power pop melodies filtered through indie grit. Filled with dusty tube amps and spring reverbs like before, Traps is far from slick, but the lines are a bit cleaner than they were on the debut, and some of the Harlem-style garage pep has been dialed down in favor of a tighter and better-focused attack.
For those of a certain age, liking the kind of music Jaill make-- alternately classified as power-pop or jangle-pop-- was once a golden ticket to coolness, if you got in with the right crowd. The sort of self-consciously smart guitar music, which started leaking from college towns and working-class cities in the wake of punk, was positioned directly against the stuff coming from the power centers of New York, L.A., or London, championed as the product of local scenes. Whiffs of classic rock largesse commingled amidst minor British-invasion nods, all presented in an unapologetically geeky manner, appealing to those for whom record stores were the primary sites to accumulate cultural capital.
Had the Milwaukee three-piece Jaill (formerly Jail) been able to keep up the sunny, feel-good brilliance of Traps' first half, this album (their third) would be a standout of the year. Those songs perfect a balance between slacker rock dotted with wonky guitar solos and accomplished Shinsesque power pop. It never gets overly twee, saccharine or straightforward and always stays robustly rhythmic and tuneful.
Traps, the third full length by Milwaukee, WI’s Jaill, is a Trojan horse of an album. Their brand of damaged rock lures you in with its slacker charm and sunny melodies, but upon repeat listens it reveals itself to actually be a bitter breakup album. Jaill’s harmonies and rhythms provide the sugar to make the emotional medicine go down, a juxtaposition that’s Traps‘ unique appeal.
Back when Jaill was only “Jail” and were infrequently playing shows around Wisconsin, I was a fan. Their brand of toughened up power-pop-infused rock ‘n’ roll delighted me. I tried to get to a couple, but plans always fell through. However, on multiple occasions I was fortunate enough to see their brother band, the genre-defying the Goodnight Loving (they shared members), whom I loved fiercely and to no end.
Traps is Jaill's third record, and second for Sub Pop. They're coming off their most successful album yet, 2010's That's How We Burn, which allowed them to tour both the United States and Europe. By most measures, this should be a high point for the Milwaukee, Wisc., outfit that got to where they are only after considerable hustle. But despite all that, Traps is the group's most transparently depressed album to date, and it's not a good look.
For all intents and purposes, I know that press releases/band descriptions are supposed to feel like super-, hyper-, ultra-, mega-inflated bullshit. I’ve seen, read, and even written many. It’s understandable to some extent: a record label’s got a record to sell, so of course they’re gonna inflate the language a bit and hype it to you as the greatest masterpiece ever.