The appeal of Track and Field is a fairly straightforward one, even if that hasn’t always been the case. Their earlier material still had both feet firmly placed in emo, but a brand that was hushed and rickety, not as piously worshipping at the altar of American Football as others, but the comparisons were indeed there.
By comparison, ‘Natural Light’ feels like a band who’ve grown up and moved away from blatant hero worship. Even if this album doesn’t bring anything particularly novel to the table, a tough ask for emo as it is, particularly nowadays, Track and Field still prove themselves to be remarkably adept at crafting lush, cinematic soundscapes with such ease that it hardly matters. There’s a quiet build to tracks like ‘Drown’ that plays with some gorgeous, liquid tones. While the delayed guitars and Mick Grogan’s reverb drenched vocals on ‘Ashes’, provides a sense of a band looking beyond their narrow ecosystem for something a lot bigger. It wouldn’t be too much of stretch to even bring in comparisons to U2 at points.
Unfortunately, that does also come with a drawback. Specifically how such a focus on big, shimmering textures doesn’t seem to be the wisest move for some of the things that Track and Field are trying. It’s mainly evident when the desire for an upbeat sensibility is brought forward, and thus tracks like ‘Horizons’ and ‘Stitches’ can feel garbled when guitars with a bit more drive feel so loose and watery. It’s not necessarily a major problem – Track and Field are smart enough to know that their biggest strengths come in mid-tempo expanse and play accordingly. But in what could break up an admittedly samey album, the execution could’ve been carried out with a bit more precision.
‘Natural Light’ is still the product of a band going through a transition, and the sense of trial and error is still key to establishing an identity. Here, Track and Field are a lot closer to actually doing that, and as a fully-formed body of work, this is a promising start. In terms of how its scope and atmosphere are crafted, it shows a band for whom the passage of time only sees them getting better.
‘Natural Light’ by Track and Field is out now on Beth Shalom Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall (@nuttall_luke)