Artist – Trying
Album/Label – This Is Not A Disco / Unsigned
Rating – 7 / 10
Art is something that is hard to look at independently. Every time you watch a movie, you are taking your own experiences and projecting them onto that movie. You are also trying to take whatever it is the folks that made the film want you to take, but ultimately even that is going to be affected by your experience. The same is true with theater or listening to an album.
So, I will preface this review by saying it is definitely a projection of my own feelings onto the album.
Trying just released their second record, This Is Not a Disco. I listened to it about four times through, and I still couldn’t completely put my finger on how it made me feel. It’s bouncing and energized at times, it’s melancholy at others, and sometimes it is both. I had just gotten done scrolling through the deluge of horror that are my social media timelines before I listened to it for a fifth time, and I realized that it is an album of now. It is an album that feels like I feel right now. Sometimes it feels claustrophobic and trapped, other times its optimistic and full of life.
This album sounds like what it feels to be sitting in front of a desk at midnight, searching for jobs you don’t feel qualified for in the midst of a global pandemic and just trying your absolute best to hold it together, even if you’re not sure who you’re holding it together for.
This Is Not a Disco Pt. 1 starts the album quietly, with what feels like a plea to its listener. A plea to let your shoulders relax, to stop being so hard on yourself. “It’s okay to be crying, no one said you have to act tough, my love.” The words hang in the air after every verse just a little bit, with just enough time to take a quick breath.
Then, This Is Not a Disco Pt. 2 jumps in, with a little more energy, but also the same message. It’s not just a song about struggling; it’s a song about trying to help someone that’s struggling. With cries to stop hating yourself, and don’t you dare lose that rhythm, it is a rallying cry for the broken. But, it’s a realistic one. Its not like every other “We got this!” song that just says how great things are, and to buck up, champ. They ask, have you been taking your meds? They echo thoughts most people have had when trying to cheer someone up or help them out. “I say ‘try to be happy.’ I regret it immediately.” These are the real conversations people have when life is relentlessly knocking them down. And it is so refreshing. One of the last lyrics of the song is simple but invaluable. “You are loved.”
The flow of the album turns down for Blowing Wishes, becoming a gentle, sad song about bygone times. Wishes that may or may not have come true. It’s a very good song to put on and just sit with your eyes closed and breathe. The instruments are sublime and the vocals have just the right amount of desperate sound for a song about leaving and losing things.
It’s a New Job swings back with an upbeat, lively rhythm. But once you dig a little deeper, you find the lyrics are just as despondent as the last. It’s the song of someone that is desperately trying to fit everything into a day, and doing a bad job of it. It also illustrates what it’s like to live with someone while on two wildly different schedules. Waking up when they are already at work, going into work once they’re available; so you have to miss their calls. These things are real, and they suck.
This song does introduce one qualm I have with the album. There are a few times the instruments overpower the relatively soft-spoken singer. While I personally have a problem with it for reviewing purposes, I do think it adds a certain level of cacophony to the songs, which reinforce the idea that this is coming from someone who’s brain is full and screaming.
We stay on an upswing for This Is Not Your Dirt, adding in some crunchy bass and synths overhead. This track does a great job of bridging fun, catchy rhythms with pretty serious themes in the lyrics, and that is where this album shines for me. I love a good sad song, but it’s really impressive when you can take that sad song and make it something I want to listen to outside of a depressive episode.
The final line of the song is “Don’t bury yourself, yet.” That one word “yet” holds a lot of weight, and while the message is one of hope for the moment, it is still morbid to add that yet in there. It adds a touch of hesitation. Again, it is real. It’s really easy to tell someone that everything is going to be okay. It takes a lot of finesse to tell someone that it might not be all okay, but lets wait it out for a little bit and see.
Bird songs lead into Oh, What an Awful Way, and with a name like that, it should be no surprise that this plunges back down into the downtrodden parts of the psyche. The meek guitar underscores the vocals that talk directly to someone who is lost. Someone whose mind turned against them. It shows the selfish side of losing someone as well. Not only is it an awful way to die, it’s and awful way to say goodbye. Its hard not to think that when you lose someone close to you. Its easy to think about what you wish you had done differently, and it screams in your head, just like the end of the song, that just repeats the same four or five lyrics over and over.
Don’t Worry is a lullaby mixed with a little bit of old-time saloon music. It is an anthem for the people that will always tell you that they are fine. It is for those of us that are always telling people not to worry about us, that it’s all good. It sways through a sleepy melody, droning out the title between verses. It is a very good song, unless it is quarter past midnight and you are trying to write a review. Maybe add it to a sleep playlist, if you’re into that.
The pace skyrockets back up for Dog Videos. It is in and out in a brisk minute twenty-one, and it doesn’t waste any time. “I still have emotions, they’re just only for dogs” is a hell of a phrase, but honestly very relatable at the moment. I am not sure if the previous songs have featured them, but this song does the most to highlight the female vocalist, and the voices meld together really well. Once those vocals trail off the song slows down and is punctuated by heavy distortion, an element that has been completely absent from the front half of the album.
At this point, the album goes back to the lullaby feeling of previous songs. What Have I Become? is a haunting song. It suffers from the same instruments drowning out lyrics problem as others on the album, but I am starting to think that is probably by design. The vocals just barely rise over the spacey guitar for only about six lines before the song devolves and shifts into the next track.
I Just Can’t Feel the Rhythm is the obvious standout on the album. It is also the point in this review where I too, lost the rhythm. I really like this song, the syncopation on the title, the way that the song turns into a jazz freestyle for about fifteen seconds. I just don’t know what else to say about it, and I feel like I am not doing it justice. It’s a song that makes you want to dance around your bedroom, but just like most songs on the album, the lyrics are much more serious than that.
The distortion makes a return for the intro to Paint the Walls Yellow, and it is a much needed pick up from the last few more somber tracks. It again tells a story of living with a person that is struggling. You do everything you can to help, you try to change the little things to help them out, you will paint your entire house yellow if you think it will help even the littlest bit.
If I Don’t Get a Job hit way too close to home as a person struggling to find employment. It’s a fun song, but it felt like it was written about me, which was a little off-putting at first. I have asked my girlfriend if she would still live with me if I can’t find a job within the last few weeks. And if I do get a job, and that job doesn’t pay very well, will we still be okay? The whole album feels very real. It feels like someone took what a lot of people go through every day and just put it to music.
The absolute madness that leads into I Still Love You feels out of place at first. If you are just listening to this album passively, like most people do, it seems like a random bit of noise before an otherwise straightforward and simple song. But once I realize what the song is trying to do, it makes perfect sense. It is a desperate plea to get someone’s attention. “I want you to know how loved you are. Don’t tell me you’re not good enough, You’re wrong.” It is the song of someone frantically trying to make someone else see that they are loved and that things are not as bad as they seem. It is raw and it sounds exactly like that feels. To be trying so hard to make someone understand that they are loved when they feel so worthless and unlovable.
I Won’t Let You Lose the Rhythm follows this plea with resilience. It is, for one moment on this album, triumphant. It says, no matter what, I got you. Even if you want to, I will not let you lose the rhythm. The album begins by asking you not to lose the rhythm. It ends by declaring, even if you don’t feel up to it, I won’t let you lose it. The album ends with one last bit of distortion for Last Chance to Disco before fading out to bird songs, a gentle reminder of the small, pleasant things in life.
I truly hope that you are able to listen to this album in a better situation than I did. I am not trying to say that you have to be going through something stressful and difficult to appreciate this album.
But I will say that this album came to me at a very important time. And if you are also going through the anxiety that comes with a global health crisis, or unemployment, or just life, this album might help you too.
1.This Is Not a Disco Pt. 1
2. This Is Not a Disco Pt. 2
3. Blowing Wishes
4. It’s a New Job
5.That Is Not Your Dirt
6. Oh, What an Awful Way
7. Don’t Worry
8. Dog Videos
9.What Have I Become?
10. I Just Can’t Feel the Rhythm
11. Paint the Walls Yellow
12. If I Don’t Get a Job
13. I Still Love You
14. I Won’t Let You Lose the Rhythm
15.Last Chance to Disco
Trying – I Just Can’t Feel The Rhythm