The Captain of Sorrow – Racetrack Babies
By: Joshua Stryde
When critics and listeners alike close the book on 2018, those who give The Captain of Sorrow’s Racetrack Babies a chance will speak of it as among the year’s best releases. Categorizing this by genre is well nigh impossible – The Captain of Sorrow goes for a different sound on nearly every track and it gives this collection the sort of dramatic broad-based appeal missing from a bevy of releases new and old. Wild variation pays off with an album that sounds confident throughout and never sounds gimmicky – The Captain of Sorrow are taking this material on because it’s a natural fit for their talents and ambitions, not because they’re pandering to some specific segment of their potential audience. Racetrack Babies rocks and rolls, but it also throws a number of curve balls the listener’s way that invigorating the listening experience.
The Captain of Sorrow gives listeners a little something different with each song, but they alternate between some relatively basic approaches. Many of the songs either opt for a slow simmer escalating into full band flight, others are orchestrated numbers contrasting quiet and heavy passages to dramatic effect. There are a small number of other songs, unclassifiable, where the band’s creativity comes to full flower. The first song “Hollow Empty Void” brings an upper register pop rock vocal to some buzzsaw slashes of guitar. They set an impressive tempo for coming out of the gate, but the next two songs prove they have no difficulty maintaining that same energy level. “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and “Buzzword Surfers” differ in their pace and the former concentrates more on laying down a steady feel, but they both are lit up by inspired, impassioned singing and playing alike. “The Captain of Sorrow” falls in the category of those unclassifiable songs insofar as it doesn’t match up with anything else Hans-Christian and his musical collaborators try their hand at. Americana instrumentation adds an unexpected musical touch and the call and response female backing singers are quite unlike anything else we’ve heard on Racetrack Babies to this point.
“Park the Bench” and “Siamese Scars” illustrate the band’s dynamic approach at its peak but manifest two different moods. The former song is much more airy and delicately wrought, but when the guitar exerts its presence, the effect is noticeable. “Siamese Scars” is a much more chaotic track, in comparison, but the more muted passages help highlight one of the album’s best lyrics. Female singers come into play again with the song “Repeat Again”, but it’s used in a more ornamental way rather than how we heard it employed on “The Captain of Sorrow”. Another duo of tracks worth mentioning, “The Lunar Ticks” and “Melancholic”, are outside the box performances considerably different from the indie rock vibe they achieve on the bulk of the album’s songs. Racetrack Babies features twelve songs that can’t readily be compared to anything else on the scene today and The Captain of Sorrow deserve a hearing for the singular quality they bring to the table.
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