Already available and atop the charts in their native homeland of Australia, The Temper Trap’s highly-anticipated sophomore release is finally available in the States. Exactly three years after the release of their debut album Conditions, Indonesia-born lead singer Dougy Mandagi and the rest of the band capitalize on their past success, but also continue to redefine their sound on the self-titled follow up.
When we last saw Mandagi and Co., they were quickly climbing the hits ladder with a sweet little indie gem, entitled “Sweet Disposition.” If you don’t think you know the song, I’m pretty sure you actually have heard it, since it was everywhere from commercials and TV programs to the lead single from (500) Days of Summer, starring Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Singles “Love Lost” and “Fader” also found relative success on the charts, pushing the album to break the Billboard 200, and garnering critical acclaim.
Three years later, instead of riding the wave of the first single’s success, The Temper Trap decided to take things in a different direction and get a little more introspective for their sophomore disc. Centering on issues like the London riots, the end of a relationship, and exploring their own roots, the Melbourne quintet took things back a few steps, mellowed out a bit, and busted out a pretty spectacular new album.
The twelve-song LP kicks off with the obvious choice for first single, “I Need Your Love.” The arena-rattling track has literally been stuck in my head for the last three weeks, thanks to its infectious chorus, and the creative accompanying music video. The video shows a fun fictional look at what might have happened to the bully Johnny from The Karate Kid, after he got beat in the final scene, complete with redemption arc. Think Duran Duran, mixed with Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
From there, the tempo stays pumping as we get a firsthand account of last summer’s London riots as seen from the band’s downtown apartment. They stay pretty neutral on the subject, not picking a side like Sublime in “April 26, 1992,” but show both sides through their lyrics and soundbites recorded from the event, coming off like the Clash without much bite.
Then the album takes a mellow, more thoughtful turn, for a good portion of the meaty middle of the disc. Mandagi’s falsetto drops an octave to match the emotive mood of pondering life, love lost, and the illusion of happiness. “The Sea is Calling” is as gorgeous a track as they have ever put out, and I love the imagery, as Mandagi sings “A distance from grace, we shall toil with our days and take on the dirt that has rendered us as slaves. Our mothers will cry ‘Is there something in the sky?’ We know we are present here, but may never know why.”
Again, they slow it down for “Miracle,” showing off a bit of soul and ruminations on deeper meanings in life. Mandagi’s lyrics hit home and get straight up Biblical when he sings “Something else comes over me, grace has come to set me free. In your hands you hold the new forever.” Add a bit of synth and 80’s vibe, and the beautiful track paints the perfect emotive soundscape.
“Never Again” and “Dreams” ratchet the BPM’s back up to Depeche Mode-meets-a-backbeat proportions. The latter is definitely a standout and could easily be a follow-up second single with its darker mood, and a chorus that pierces light throughout. “Rabbit Hole” starts off unassuming but powerfully builds into a great segue into another highlight, “I’m Gonna Wait.” From someone who listens to a lot of music week in and week out, this one has stood out with some serious replay value, and I definitely foresee it making my top ten list for 2012.
Try This Track: “The Sea is Calling”