TR/ST

Joyland

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AllMusic Review by

Trust became one of the definitive acts in Canada's thriving dark electronic pop scene -- which also includes Grimes, Crystal Castles, Purity Ring, and Austra -- after the release of their first album, TRST. Unlike those gossamer-voiced artists, Trust features the deep, unearthly vocals of Robert Alfons, which heightened the equally brooding and seedy vibe of their Juno-nominated debut. Soon after TRST's release, however, Alfons' bandmate Maya Postepski departed to focus on her duties as Austra's drummer, and Trust continued as his solo project. This streamlining can be felt throughout his vibrant second album, Joyland, which finds Alfons becoming a more expressive, and versatile, artist. While it didn't seem possible for his singing to have more personality, some artful pitch-shifting gives his voice multiple personalities. Where his guttural bass on TRST tied him to a tradition of similarly rich-voiced acts like Bauhaus and Depeche Mode, the androgynous falsetto he adds to his repertoire on these songs feels akin to the Knife or Balam Acab. "Are We Arc?" balances the extremes of his voice in a chiaroscuro duet, while "Joyland" puts its helium-laced vocals front and center to give its fluorescent pop liftoff. Meanwhile, Alfons is a house divo swooning over a relentless beat on "Peer Pressure," and the nods to late-'80s/early-'90s dance music continue on "Lost Souls/Eelings"' keyboard stabs and the squiggling synths and pulsing momentum of "Geryon" and "Rescue, Mister," all of which add to Joyland's liberated feel. Even the songs that recall TRST's debut are more kinetic: "Four Gut" sets Alfons' murky vocals and pointy-toed synths to a hip-shaking beat. No matter how shadowy Joyland gets, there's a newfound openness to these songs that remains inviting, and the big, heart-rending choruses on "Capitol" and "Icabod" are equally vulnerable and bold. A beautiful and often brave-sounding album, Joyland shows how much can be gained by letting go. Its blend of black-lipstick intensity and glowstick exuberance reveals the peak of Trust's powers.

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