The history of Austin’s …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead seemed to be doomed to decline, despite their epic sound. Major label debut Source Tags & Codes got near universal acclaim ten years ago, but following records saw a slide to the point of major label departure five years later – and subsequent self-made records like last year’s Tao of the Dead (QRO review) failed to reverse the critical slide. Where once they were headlining festivals, now they were playing during the daytime – even at home (QRO photos, during the day at a hometown festival). Where once they sprawled with members and instruments, 2010 saw them reduced their core four-piece.
Yet Lost Songs manages to reverse that downward slope – in epic fashion, of course.
The epic rock employed by the likes of Trail of Dead has always been a double-edged sword – if there’s not substance behind it, it can feel all hat and no cattle; just epic for epic’s sake. Yet Lost Songs puts a core of aggressive uplift behind its tracks, from the first building notes of opener “Open Doors” on forward. The push is energetic and effective, and sustains throughout the album.
Admittedly, the best tracks are the ones where the band does something more than just epic (the melodic loss of the title track, for instance), and the epic nature can get overdone (see the following “Flower Card Games”). This is not a perfect record, or even a perfect epic record, or even the best epic record of the year (see Japandroids’ Celebration Rock – QRO review – but that’s one of the best records of the year…), but an epic turnaround of the Trail.