Sporting a slowed down dream-pop/shoegaze sound and a band name more suited to a sleaze-punk band opening for the Dwarves in the mid-’90s, Trailer Trash Tracys emerged in 2009, and between then and now released single after blog-baiting single. They were good ones too: the swirling, almost Black Moth Super Rainbow psych of “Strangling Good Guys,” the wistful slow dance of “Candy Girl,” and most recently, the playful “You Wish You Were Red.”
Unfortunately, sometime in the past three years, something went awry, and now we have Ester. The album is a portrait of unrealized potential, populated by songs that are content to just spin in circles, seemingly more enamored by their own beauty than the establishment of memorability or coherent structure. Opening track “Rolling” illustrates most of the problems faced by some of the other songs on Ester. Over thumping bass, sounds drift in and out of the mix, while lead signer Susanne Aztoria moans wordlessly throughout. It sounds heavily drugged, and simply doesn’t go anywhere.
What makes this even more frustrating is the fact that all of the songs here have at least one good idea within them that is either not capitalized on, or beaten into the ground. “Engelhardt’s Arizona”‘s Eddie Van Halen-in-a-K-hole riff conjures up all sorts of hallucinogenic fever dreams, but quickly wears out its welcome when it becomes apparent that the song is content to just float from section to section with no real logic. The same issue faces “Starlatine,” with its melody that sounds like it was generated from water drops falling into puddles of various sizes, or “Black Circles” agreeably warped bass lines. Great ideas, given no real destination. Even Aztoria’s talents seems slightly wasted. She delivers beautiful, swoony vocal work with the best of the 4AD gang, but does little to keep the songs grounded when they begin to lose their footing.
This leaves the previously released material, which is easily the strongest on the album. “You Wish You Were Red” and “Candy Girl” both sport deep, twangy guitar riffs that establish very positive associations with Angelo Badalamenti’s scoring work for Twin Peaks. “Strangling Good Guys” recontextualizes itself as the album’s most upbeat track, offering respite from the fuzzy morass that the album predominantly finds itself in.
Most of the songs on Ester are like partially frozen ice cubes tossed into a drink on a warm day: they work for a little while, but they never turn into something truly solid, and end up dissolving pretty quickly. That after three years of promise, genuinely great singles, and the chance of them taking psyched-out dreamgaze in interesting new directions, that this was all they could come up with for an album raises an ominous possibility: Trailer Trash Tracys might be a band who have already said all they really have to say, and that’s a shame.