I Like Trains have always had an odd spot in the annals of today’s music, mixing epic post-rock with concept songs & albums about odd pieces of history – even their name, iLIKETRAiNS, stood out. But in some ways that was just the beginning, in their debut EP, Progress/Reform (QRO review). Starting with the full-length debut after it, Elegies To Lessons Learnt (QRO review), the group has shifted from a post-rock historical oddity into something smoother, if still tragic, and that has reached further on their latest, The Shallows.
Now, this is still I Like Trains we’re talking about – The Shallows is still a loose concept record, based around Nicholas Carr’s book last year of the same name; however, this time I Like Trains have picked a modern book about a modern subject (‘Is the internet making us stupider?’). Likewise, their sound has ‘modernized’, at least in that they’ve shifted from guitars (so twentieth century…) to more electronics & synthesizers, today’s instruments. However, they have not lost the tragedy, not the in the least, from the pressing ‘great man’ tragedy of opener "Beacons" to the darkly, sadly proceeding closer "In Tongues".
But it’s a more danceable tragedy, at least in the sad dancetronica backbeat on pieces. This is best exemplified in "Reykjavik", which is both more atmospheric and more personal than I Like Trains have ever been before. Contrastingly, some of the more ‘retrograde’ ILT tracks like "Water / Sand" are a little unremarkable amidst The Shallows.
Possibly the first I Like Trains record (under any name) where you don’t need to know the odd subject matter, The Shallows is their furthest step yet.
MP3 Stream: "Reykjavik"