Timing is everything. In music, it can mean the difference between a mediocre performance or a moment in time that infects the memory of the listener for years. In the business of music, a shrewd sense of timing can make or break a career. There is a band on the Sellaband web site that has displayed a very acute sense of timing in both regards.
I reviewed Trail early last summer and the only issues I felt justified in raising at that time had to do with sound quality. As to the quality of the playing and more importantly, the songs, I had only complimentary words for this group's offerings. Rather than repeat myself, you can read the review here.
In the time since that review, Trail has been working hard toward their goal of becoming a viable recording act. Recently, they have posted a new version of their song "City" on their profile page and I was very curious if the new version would be an improvement over the recording I had originally reviewed. To put my reaction in one sentence: Trail, you are clever, clever lads.
The "hit potential" of any given recording can many times be measured on a timeline. Success can depend on what happens in the ten seconds after pushing "play." This is the first example of Trail's impeccable sense of timing. From the first note of "City" I wanted to hear more. And when the guitar kicked in at six seconds in, I was sold. Trail has gone to some expense in producing this song to professional standards. The effort, as well as the expense, shows.
I know that there was some concern about sacrificing the vibe of the original demo when putting the song under the surgeon's knife in a professional studio environment. "City" proves that this doesn't have to be the case. The recording is a perfect example of how not to fuck up a great performance. The ambience of the recording is intimate, with a warm presence that gives the listener a seat in the room as it all goes down. The drum sounds are pure and don't suffer from the over-processing that so tempts the home recording engineer/producer. The bass and drum balance is the perfect foundation for the guitar sounds that first drew me to listen to this band. The dynamics of the solo section show a mature sense of restraint without which the impact of the second section would be lost. And throughout the song, as exciting as the instrumental mix is, the vocal is never crowded into a corner but soars right up the middle with plenty of space to breathe. "City" sounds like an ass-kicking rock recording...period.
As to the performance, Trail's sense of timing once again looms large. These guys play simple, hard and, most importantly, together. You can eq the bottom end of a recording to death, but if the information isn't there, you're just pissing in the wind. The bottom end of "City" is rich, round and has impact because it was played that way...with balls. There is also that elusive feel that musicians describe as "swing" oozing in the cracks between all the parts. If it were possible to improve on the feel of the demo, Trail has done exactly that. "City" feels like an ass-kicking rock recording...period.
Now, as to the shrewdness of Trail's timing in a business sense, this new version will kill more than its share of birds with one stone. Posting songs on Sellaband is a matter of proving potential. Certainly, the songs previously presented have indicated that Trail has what it takes to make a great album, given the budget to avail themselves of the proper tools, facilities and expertise. This new version of "City" positively proves the point. And Trail's timing is spot on. The band is very near to reaching the halfway point in their quest toward the 50 Thousand dollar recording budget proscribed by Sellaband. Coming at the halfway point, this recording should prove to Trail's existing believers that they do indeed have a winner. I predict that new investment in Trail is imminent and forthcoming as well.
I try to call them like I see/hear them and I thought a lot of this band when I first heard the demos. Now I'm looking forward to a full album of top flight songs from these guys. If "City" is any indication, I know I won't be disappointed. Trail is an ass-kicking rock band...period