The album's arrangements are lush, with layers of beats and drum loops, synthesizers, guitars, and drums. The guitars alternately crunch and drone, and the synths and drum loops provide a recurring aural motif that ties the whole production together. Each song assembles itself measure by measure, a fully realized little micro-verse that becomes clearer with each listen. The warmth of the arrangements — and Alberson’s sense of humor and straightforward delivery — lends an air of whimsy to the recordings. It keeps the songs from sinking into melancholy, even as Alberson sings, with an air of resignation, of “life in his leaky lifeboat.” His lyrics offer comfort and encouragement but no easy answers or sugarcoating, accepting that life’s trials give its triumphs definition and contrast.
Such paradoxes color much of Trials, which seemingly crafts a harmonious whole by combining tropes from various genres (think world music, French pop, post-rock, new wave, and the kind of ’60s balladry reminiscent of Van Morrison’s Them). Alberson’s honest lyrics are done justice by his strong vocals, and he is backed up to good effect by the talented Kathryn Brawley Suda and Cat Hall on tracks “And Rainy Days” and “Television Quicksand,” respectively.
- Jack Alberson
Must-listen tracks include album opener “Motivational,” “Let Me Be Right,” and “Television Quicksand.” The album was produced and recorded by Alberson and J.D. Reager, with additional recording by Josh Stevens and Eric Wilson at “various homes using a Tascam 24-track digital recorder.” The last words on the back cover of Trials are advice to be heeded: “No peak limiting — play it loud.”