ALBUM REVIEW - The Travel Guide "Trading a Dream"

The Travel Guide solidifies everyone's favorites while keeping an eye toward the future.

  Album Review by Torin Andersen  Recorded/Mixed by Micajah Ryan Mastered by J.J. Golden Album artwork by  Loudletter Design  Release Dec. 26th, 2015  Air House Records

Album Review by Torin Andersen
Recorded/Mixed by Micajah Ryan
Mastered by J.J. Golden
Album artwork by Loudletter Design
Release Dec. 26th, 2015
Air House Records

Though fans have already heard most of these songs live, Trading a Dream — debut full length from The Travel Guide — is still worth repeat listens. Hearing these ideas under a microscope with honed performances and determined clarity, The Travel Guide make a point of how serious this release is. Those who want a first taste of this Air House Records release you can get Trading a Dream at the release party, December 26, at Barleycorn's.

Already a regionally gigging success, TTG stands poised to move beyond midwest indie circles. Enlisting Micajah Ryan  engineer with a long history of helping successful artists get their best product out there  give TTG an advantage most midwest bands don’t have.

Trading a Dream's anthemic opener, "January Bones," is layered with harmonic guitars over huge sounding toms. In production for 18 months (due to personnel changes), Trading a Dream is dense, precise and rich with ideas. The musical landscape is dynamic and fluid enough to handle all of the elements - nothing less than what you'd expect from a band called The Travel Guide. Without losing sight of the structure from which pop songs connect with its audience, "January Bones" confidently takes you through new territory without leaving the listener out of context.

"January Bones" is followed by "Hockey Night," likely TTG's most recognizable song by the band which started as a 3 piece in 2011. Original members Thayne Coleman as singer/guitarist and drummer Will Erickson remain, but the band now includes guitarist Kristyn Chapman who joined in 2012 and bass player, Caleb Drummond who joined this year.

Full of energy, "Hockey Night" highlights the band's ability to stay busy while losing none of their musicality. Repeated phrases are often performed through slightly different lenses reducing potential "riff fatigue."  Hooks are abundant throughout Trading a Dream and "Hockey Night" is exemplary.

In contrast to the previous songs, "Bastard Architecture" starts with a delicate guitar phrase with delay. Building over two minutes, it swells to an almost interstellar pitch before this piece then deflates bellows toward a gentle resting point, ending at the three minute mark. Waning guitar fragments close out the remaining 30 seconds of track time.

"Dogs and Crooked Cops" begins with a melding of all the performers instrumental personalities. Erickson's inventive take on straight beats. Drummonds nimble and melodic bass lines. Coleman's slippery guitar hooks drenched in vibe. Chapman's penchant for the noisey, The Travel Guide take a sonic detour two minutes in. The meld of these personalities pushes TTG to take a sonic detour two minutes in. They loosely follow a musical idea, but continue to push the focus onto atmosphere and texture. 20 minutes into Trading a Dream and TTG are still broadening their songwriting palette.

Up next is "Long Year" which features vocalist Thayne Coleman at his most angsty. When he sings, "It's been a long year, it's been a long year swallowing the pills of your promises," Coleman leans in to a long tradition of rock singers. Straddling the line that David Byrne describes as, "The better a singer's voice, the harder it is to believe what they're saying." Melodies are more easily imagined as Gerhard Richter paintings rather than notes on a page. It’s easier to see Coleman, floppy-haired with a guitar in hand performing these songs on stage than standing in a studio with two fingers to his headphones churning vocal take after vocal take. "Long Year" accentuates his depth ranging from angsty and reflective to determined and focused, within the span of 5 minutes.

"Everyone's An Expert" might be the most telling piece on Trading a Dream packaged perfectly for a radio edit, the song exists in the span of four minutes over a five and half minute track. With its slow intro and a beautifully shimmering guitar outro, "Everyone's An Expert" crafts a pop song for the masses. With it's optimistic vocal performance and uplifting refrains, it’s easy to want "Everyone's an Expert" to be the single that breaks TTG national.

Trading a Dream is clear, brilliantly colorful, dynamic, and encompassing. Hearing the thundering rigidity behind the drums over glassy sheets of over-driven guitar often led, surprisingly, by melodic bass lines, Trading a Dream expresses what inspires TTG while preserving the quartet's unique voice.

"Folk Devil" is a warm embrace, while "Lives Like Climates" takes advantage of bouncy exuberance. The sonic breadth conjured by TTG without changing instruments or production means is remarkable.

"Hubris" sounds like an album closer but TTG still has much to say. TTG's musical vocabulary is expansive and it seems to take them little effort to weave through the many possible dialects of rock bands. The sultry vibes of "Beneditction" comes at the listener with a bit of slumber in it's eye - much different than the energetic, weighty "Like a Place You Used to Go."

Trading a Dream is less about where the band comes from or what it chooses to reference and more about inking this chapter into the archives. For the most part, these songs are battle hardened and proven as such through precision performances during over the album's 60 minutes play time. The newer songs on this release show an optimistic band bold enough to travel the midwest (and hopefully beyond) in search of future fans ripe for the picking. As their best new ambassador, Trading a Dream, will smooth the way prior to TTG's arrival in the next city and the ones after that. Listen for Trading a Dream to come to your college radio air waves and beyond in 2016.