Steel Train: Trampoline


Though guitarist Jack Antonoff may be best known for his (former) relationship with sultry actress Scarlett Johansson, his band, Steel Train—which he formed as a duo with singer Scott Irby-Ranniar in New York City in 1999—evinces enough indie-pop power to make him famous in his own right. While the band’s first full-length album, 2005’s Twilight Tales from the Prairies of the Sun, centered around Antonoff’s breakup, Trampoline focuses on more universal themes—yes, love, but also the loss of innocence and the struggle between avoiding change and embracing it.


From the first track, “I Feel Weird”—featuring bells and xylophones behind the ringing guitars, and the sharp lyric, “if something is lost, then there’s something to frame”—the band demonstrates the ability to make everything sound natural and easy. Their musical expression follows a sunny pop/punk mode similar to that of Swedish rockers Mando Diao, but Steel Train shows many other contemporary influences, including Tripping Daisy, My Morning Jacket, The Arcade Fire and The Shins. “Black Eye” features the bouncy rhythm and earnest singing that characterized much of Tripping Daisy’s work—ditto “Firecracker” and “A Magazine,” which breaks down into distortion halfway through, then bursts open in the style of the Beatles classic, “A Day in the Life.”


With portentous bridges that explode into churning choruses, “Kill Monsters in the Rain,” “Alone on the Sea” and “Diamonds in the Sky” feel every bit as bombastic as the best of The Arcade Fire—excessively so, in some cases, but triumphant nonetheless. Following the acoustic, countrified “Leave You Traveling,” the edgy “School is for Losers” is a refreshing change of pace and a solid reminder of the Steel Train’s range. Overall, a solid effort from a band that promises more good things to come.

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