If Rat Trap’s three album career were a school report, they performed with merit on their indie folk-flavoured debut ‘The Western Boundary’ and achieved distinctions in alt rock for the follow-up ‘Blueprints Of A Paper City’. It seems a long time ago when I wrote about the California-based band’s first album in 2011 but main songwriter Grant Simmons has actually only just graduated from high school.
A sense of confusion and inner turmoil is apparent from the opening line to their new album: “Lately I’ve been sleeping in a head that isn’t mine”. It’s the first of an opening two parter called ‘Canoe’ but it’s the second part where Rat Trap show their arranging prowess much better; augmenting a stylistically varied song with string and brass instruments. Then they unleash the brilliantly wired and infectious ‘Exploding Head Syndrome’ and – in a similar vein – ‘Hippopotamus’ revisits their favourites Pavement with a typically awkward, off-key melody. ‘Creeks And Rivers’, meanwhile is a lovely, bittersweet tune featuring a sweet vocal turn from Simmons. Yet this album is as much about sensitive souls as arch songwriting. On that score, some of the material comes across as rather timid but ‘The Best A While’ rings and chimes delightfully and ‘Saltwater’ is a joyful ramble through strings and piano.
The album closes in somewhat valedictory fashion via the fading keys and poignant words (“The swan only has one song”) of ‘Outro’. It represents a somewhat fitting finale because this is the band’s last outing for the “foreseeable future” as presumably the band members find their next path after graduation. So it’s the end of a musical era but the beginning of something exciting for the individuals concerned. Whatever happens, ‘Halfway To Infinity’ presents the last part of a musical trilogy in growing up and Rat Trap have done themselves very proud throughout.
Pavement, Belle And Sebastian