Nearly everything about Trails and Ways screams inclusivity. From a musical standpoint, they include a smattering of languages, be it Spanish, Portuguese, or English sung by multiple male and female vocalists. From a business standpoint, the band operates through Non-Market Records, a DIY community-based label that attempts to cut through the commercialism of the industry by forming a coalition of supportive Bay Area bands. And from a social standpoint, Trails and Ways seem intent on exploring the disparate cultures that their travels have attuned them to. This confluence of artistic choices creates a band with clear vision and style, all of which is apparent on their new EP.
Such a vision has been on display for a little while, as Trails and Ways’ songs have sprung up on Tumblr, so much so that much of the content on this five-song EP has been previously available. Deciding against a full-length release, the quartet has zeroed on these five songs, presenting twenty minutes of music that is crisp and clearly labored over. From the opening track, “Como Te Vas,” Trails and Ways showcases a percussive, danceable sound that is clean and tightly wound. Although this opener can appear initially complex, it’s really just a simple melody surrounded by some handclaps and an unerring refrain of mellifluous Spanish lyrics. If it doesn’t make you want to head straight to the beach, nothing will.
“Nunca” has a similar pop structure, with a chorus drawn from the song’s title playing off of some persistent percussion. The song’s vocal layering gives it a lushness, but also makes it feel a little busy. “Tereza” features a slight shift in structure, chilling a bit on the vocal layering to put the spotlight on Emma Oppen’s singular voice. The song flows nicely and builds to a fairly rousing, string-laden ending yet, to this point, the EP has done little to sound markedly different from song to song. The closer, “Mtn Tune,” is similarly buoyant and summery, while also hammering home the pretty amazing fact that all four members of this outfit have distinct, exemplary voices that play off of one another to great effect.
The talent on display here is undeniable, as is the care that went into each song. As a five-song standalone EP, it works as a nearly perfect complement to these summer months. Trilingual EP does stay in its “bossanova dream pop” lane a bit too much at times, so I’ll be curious to see if this band can diversify their sound from song to song a bit more on a full length record. For now, this mellow EP will make a breezy companion on your next (short) walk on the beach.