By: Eric G.
Tracker plays country-tinged indie rock for those with a little blues in their blood, but the blues here doesn’t always sound quite real. You can sniff out everything from Neil Young to Slint on this Portland, Oregon quartet’s debut album, which is a mix of indie country, post-rock, and roots rock and roll. The slacker vocals have an exaggerated drawl akin to Pavement’s Steven Malkmus but without any of the ironic posturing. These guys are at least trying to be authentic even though they’re probably a bunch of white suburbanites getting off on some mysterious ‘Old West’ schtick. Just because you have a picture of the desert on your album sleeve does not make you a cowboy.
Tracker’s songs aren’t quite as flawlessly constructed as its image is, though. The moods are too disparate, sounding brittle and aching one moment (“We Don’t Need To Speak”) and then borderline adult contemporary the next (“Liquored”). The vocals drag things down far too often. The twangy inflections sound more forced than affecting. Tracker seems to have its eye on the same dark, ghost town as The Black Heart Procession, but it fails to conjure up the latter band’s tortured aura. And just when you’re ready to toss the album back into the pile, the band busts out with a mind-blowing musical breakdown in “The Telephone.”
“The Man Who Never Left His Apartment” wouldn’t be out of place on a Wilco album with its radio-ready mix and crisp production. It sways at a moderate pace like all that post-Uncle Tupelo country rock. The vocals are surprisingly effective here, finally abandoning that fake, down home accent. “Drinker” also works well with its acoustic minor chords and distant piano. For every mediocre song there’s a gem to match it (“The Road Is Sticking” is the true standout, combining a reverb-drenched electric guitar with muted trumpet and Rhodes-style piano), but the album as a whole is too inconsistent. Ames is not a bad debut- it’s just not the album that you’d turn to when you’re driving alone across the country.