Philosopher Nietzsche once said: “From confusion comes genius.” Presumably, he wasn’t referring to rock ‘n’ roll bands. But if he had been, Chapel Hill’s Trailer Bride would be the smartest rock band ever. The confusion is because of the band’s knack for making music with textures and layers so varied and vast it defies classification. It would be easy to lump Trailer Bride in with the insurgent country movement because of its affiliation with Bloodshot Records. But Trailer Bride is more than just country. The band’s music is a mix of noir, country and southern Gothic, with an overall feeling that’s moody and ethereal.
Hope, Trailer Bride’s fourth record for Bloodshot and the band’s fifth album in six years, comes across like a concept piece, an epic tale, with each song a different chapter telling the life story of the inhabitants of a fictional town. The album’s about lost souls, losers, no-hopers, down on their luck and without any hope for salvation; the songs are about what happens when there’s nothing left. Swingle sings on “Mach 1″: He’s got a Mach 1 ’73 Mustang car sitting in the yard/ He spent all his money on that thing/ But he drives his girlfriend’s car/ He’s a real party with his frosted hair and his jail-house tattoos/ But he won’t do nothing unless he’s getting something from me or you.”
Singer Melissa Swingle uses her voice like an instrument, bending, shaping and blending it into songs that have an otherworldly, ethereal and enticing quality, not unlike the Sirens in mythology. Swingle’s spooky and deeply troubled voice combined with the guitar work of Tim Bareds make for a beguiling combination. The band can develop a coy, spy-themed guitar opening into a sleepy and languid tune; while it’s lulling the listener, it takes on an eerie quality, becoming completely transformed through its lyrics and imagery. Each of the songs has the ability to conjure disparate feelings and emotions.
Most of the songs are somber, but the band incorporates a little upbeat piano into “Quickstep” and some jazz undertones into “Drive with the Wind.” Both tracks work to counterbalance the mood of Hope. The band has explored its Southern roots, as well as the weirder side of American life, and develops songs as folktales. With excellent songwriting and Swingle’s harrowing voice, the album is eclectic and intriguing.