The aspect of music being entirely subjective has always bewildered me. On one side, you have people arguing that music cannot be judged as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because who’s to say what qualifies something to be worse than the other? And on the other side, you have people arguing that music can be directly broken up and dissected and that yes, you can significantly say that a band like Wolf Parade is better than Creed. I’ve always followed the thinking that music can be objective but even after over-analyzing it to death, I can start to see what the other side believes.
A band like No Second Troy firmly falls in between the lines where music can be subjectively enjoyed, as well as being objectively solid. For every new lyric on a broken relationship, there is a solid chorus that is built on sturdy melodies and chords, and in between, there is a charm and endearment that transcends their music. Their newest album, Colors, challenges the black and white thinking of objectivists, like yours truly, into pushing outside of their boundaries and hopefully, recognizing that music is a purely subjective art.
The album’s strategy can be simply detailed: everything, including the music, is made up of colors that attempting to deem something as right/wrong, bad/good, or even, black/white will never amount to anything because of all the grays involved. But upon further listening, one can easily notice that while topical in many forms, it’s a debate that has been raging for years. And through the album’s music, everything is brought forth by musicians that are all comfortable in their own skin, aware of their abilities as band mates. These assets provide an album that is not only aware of its challenging themes but at the same time, filled with an abundant amount of great music.
Jeff Wharen’s vocals recall the earlier decade’s alternative crooners with lyrics that cover the love we all hope to find and the love we all lose at one point in our lives. On “Surfacing” Wharen’s words are admirably convincing as he calls for his love to “come take my hand.” With his band softly layering guitars and keyboard lines, they come together for a fitting climax into Wharen’s final declaration. And “Wake Up” is certainly one of the better cuts with a piano line that hovers above the composition – quietly in the background – before being brought back out towards the end.
And the message is always clear, as it’s positioned on the aptly titled, “Grounded.” Staying close to the ground and never becoming presumptuous or worse, self-righteous, is hard for many people to do but with a Crowded House influence, No Second Troy comes together for a terrific album starter. Prefacing the surface with a steady amount of rock that flashes with angular guitars and pounding drums, everything is always moving forward. Although Colors definitely brings up a debate regarding musical judgments, it’s also a nod to the album’s varying styles of rock. Each song carries its own fashion and style and even the album’s ending ode of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” all make for a pretty colorful album.
It all works out well for No Second Troy in being able to not only make music that will jump out to subjective people but also, objective people alike. Making honest music with solid hooks and melodies is always a great thing and one that many can agree on. And sure, I love some music about relationships too so call me a subjectivist if you’d like. There’ll always be good music like Colors to debunk any theory.