It's been 5 years since lead vocalist/guitarist Rob Ernst wrangled his favorite musical collective into the studio. Troubadour's 7- song debut release, "It Grows and grows and grows" - a testament to post-punk, both musically and lyrically - was produced in much the same way as many a punk who had come before. The personnel was traditional, with two guitars, bass and drums, and the recording sessions were quick (two ten-hour recording sessions) raw; ensconced in a frustrated passion that would become a signature of Troubadour.
Now, Ernst and company return with a slightly different take on things; adding a violinist, swaping bassist, putting a bit of a polish on their studio sounds. Light in my Eyes continues to promote the band's heavy emotional energy, in a casing that relies less on quick power, and more on steady energy.
Leading-off with the album's most poigniant tracks, "Drought," is as much emo as anything else, Ernst's rough voice crooning a song of desperation (The whole damn town could shout, we need water. Unless we turn to the preacher man we won't know what the cure is.) The track beckons bands like Minus the Bear and Cursive, while "Star V. Streetlights" reeks of Springsteen's broken-dream inspired charts ("They stole the part of all the stars repressed by all the light).
But the mood shifts as the violin-laden accents in "You Shall Know Our Velocity," and "Dancing Girl" shatter convention, sounding like Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) or the haunting Americana-threading of The National. Songs like "Snakeman," "Twins" and "Entropy" ("My Lord, you burned down what was mine.") lay on the darkness, at times in an almost surreal fashion; slowing tempos, just letting the poison soak in. The tracks employ a group shout (sometimes melodic), representing the voices of the many, or the inner angst of the songs' narrator. The entirety of the effort comes across as almost literary, in a working-class showing of raw emotion and guttural reaction.
Troubadour shows that the distance between traditional Americana, Springsteen's energy, and punk's anger are negligible, savagely exploiting the energy of rock and roll that's birthed from social commentary, macabre storytelling and the sheer misfortunes of the heart and spirit. "Light in My Eyes" is undoubtedly slower and less frantic than their past material, but that only allows the music to fester; exacerbating frustrations, haunting listeners in a way that Troubadour has become so adept at.
Stream/buy the entirety of "Light In My Eyes' via Bandcamp