Owen Tromans – From a Lost Library

Owen Tromans
From a Lost Library

For everyone who has struggled most of their life to try to do one thing – only one – exceptionally well, pouring all of his or her cumulative strength into one effort to be truly legitimate in one area of life, people like Owen Tromans are hard to understand (as well as not resent). Now having officially found solid footing as a solo artist, he has expanded beyond the already elastic boundaries that barely restrained him during his San Lorenzo days and currently gives evidence that he’s just about capable of doing anything at this point. And on From a Lost Library, he pretty much does, carving out a unique sound without ever landing too squarely on any one mood, using his three-fold gift in melody, lyric, and instrumental dexterity to make another album that will frustrate everyone trying to master his or her first gear as a songwriter.
Lending his clear, strong voice a sense of authority with the alternately foreboding and vaguely prophetic narration of a few solitary characters trying to divine their fates in “Three,” Tromans maneuvers through the hooky mid-tempo opener situated between a sturdy melody and galloping drums. Simmering just below a boil, the arrangement becomes the perfect foil for the consummate sense of pensive resignation that saturates his writing, just as the languid “Our Astronomy” works within an ethic of solitary hurtfulness and a slightly abstract take on the strictures of the loud/soft dynamic. The twinkling leads and complexly shifting strumming patterns of the brief “Walnut” offers an interesting bridge to the gently obtuse “A Salute to the Suburbs,” a ballad that pushes through a number of movements with surprising simplicity and heartbreaking directness. Charged with the curious lyrical profundities and philosophical universalities that litter his songs, he remains one of the rare songwriters that can pose subtle queries without using question marks and supply answers without belaboring the point.
Most startling, however, is the strongly traditional flavor of “The Fisherman’s Daughter,” with a wistfully hypnotic melody, gorgeous acoustic guitar chord phrasing, and surreally uneasy love story giving it an exotic flair much in keeping with the spirit of the ancient songs found in the British folk canon. A similar homespun feel turns up in the early stages of the multi-part “Stolen Horses,” a song that builds on its humble finger-picked acoustic guitar intro to spiral out into a Neil Young-ish rocker a la “Cortez the Killer,” with Tromans featuring some of his best soloing on the record. All in all, the two songs form the centerpiece of the album and prove just how astute Tromans is in maintaining a specific mood throughout an album, even while shape-changing through the whole affair. The beautifully intricate “A Good Storm” that closes the disc is a perfect final example of the pristine atmosphere that remains firmly under his control over the course of the seven songs.
Overall, the breadth of the disc is impressive, but the consistency and cohesion of the tracks is what makes his gifts so exceptional. And while the disc seems longer than it actually is due to the depth of the material and the expansiveness of the arrangements, it’s obvious that Tromans could do even more over the course of a full-length release. The evidence here is conclusive: he’s on the verge of a masterpiece. One minute Billy Bragg, the next Neil Young, and the next a shape-shifting post-rocker, he never stops being Owen Tromans, and that’s the ultimate triumph of From a Lost Library.