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Saturday, April 19, 2014 
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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
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+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
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...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
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The Secret Of Elena's Tomb
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The Secret of Elena's Tomb is surely not what many of today's fans of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead were betting on as a follow-up to last year's deservedly acclaimed Source Tags & Codes. A close listen, however, reveals subtle messages throughout this EP's five seemingly divergent songs.

The first track, "Mach Schau," which literally means "make a show," and is what Beatles fans used to chant when the band would take the stage during their formative years in Hamburg, serves as an interesting introduction to the EP. It does, after all, embody what has come to be understood as standard Trail of Dead. Yes, it's good. Yes, it's breakneck rock. There are classic punk-rock overtones. It's energetic and soaring and truly great. But there's a notable undercurrent of cynicism that bubbles up toward the end of the song, in Conrad Keely's chants of "rock show, mach Schau, rock show, mach Schau." Is it that just making a rock show isn't enough anymore? Possibly. Maybe it's an initial casting-off of what we've been conditioned to want from Trail of Dead's music, along with the affirmation of an unspoken hope that they're going to take us someplace different this time around.

And right away they make good on the promise, in the roaring, rumbling "All Saints Day." It's a confessional tune, sliding and swerving among all the lies people tell each other and people tell themselves, eventually imploring all of us that we "can't hide forever." Jason Reece's self-reflective lyrics imply that it goes as much for them as it does for us. All that, and it's one of the band's best songs to date.

The third song of the cycle, the elegant "Crowning of a Heart," is slowed-down, melodically awesome, and mellow. Yes: mellow. Delicate guitar lines, subtly changing, intermingling. It's blissed-out, practically. This is a sound that hasn't been heard from the band since "When We Begin to Steal" from the band's first album. It's an extremely well crafted song: simple at its core, yet impressive in its impact. Which are, after all, distinct elements of Trail of Dead's music. A different take on their more visible style, but still very much them.

The fourth track, "Counting off the Days," continues the keyed-down mood. It's a plaintive ballad that's simultaneously calming and jarring. This song, over all the others, is a true surprise. It's beautiful, surely, with little more than acoustic guitar, bagpipes, and Keely's single-verse lyric. But, wait: acoustic guitar? Yep. Ballad? Oh, yes. Bagpipes? I think so. It may be a harmonium. Either way, it's uncompromisingly lovely.

The EP's final song, "Intelligence," is not even technically Trail of Dead, but actually Jason Reece's side-project with Tyler Jacobson, A Roman Scandal. It's electro-pop/clash/rock. It's infectious, it's live bass, it's neworderdeathdisco. It's another of the many faces of Trail of Dead. Borrowing lyrics from The Ramones' "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" and a few basslines from Duran Duran, this is (again) another side of Trail of Dead that will blindside all but the most obsessive listeners.

An interesting development: Upon first popping the CD into the computer to rip MP3s, I discovered that the EP also includes videos for "Another Morning Stoner," the band-directed "Relative Ways" (which is an incredible visual journey), and a live version of "All Saints Day" (shot at Emo's in Austin). Upon further examination, however, it's possible that these videos aren't just tagged on for bonus material. Instead, these videos are really part of the EP. Which places the EP's offerings in an altogether different context.

Because, as a whole, The Secret of Elena's Tomb is a compendium of many of the things Trail of Dead have been to date: provocative lyricists, well-honed musicians, and now film directors. It's a sure message to everyone that they've got more sides to them than a lot of listeners and critics probably previously thought. That, first and foremost, they are creators, whatever their chosen medium.

Which is why releasing this collection now, following the high-profile success of Source Tags..., is such a fine — and bold — move. They refuse to be pigeonholed, despite whatever commercial rewards they might receive were they to simply release a quick four songs to satiate the public's narrow-sighted need for "something angst-y."

Instead, Trail of Dead did what they wanted to do — which is the heart, really, of what they've always done — and that challenges us to lose our preconceptions of what music and art should be and simply let loose to revel in the amazing things that are happening right in front of us.


by Andrew Womack




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