Steel Train remains on the Drive-Thru roster for this sophomore release, but the band's indie folk-rock is a far cry from the label's standard emo offerings. Trampoline finds the New Jersey-based quintet continuing to chug through heartland territory, with a dose of amplified adrenaline sparking their mix of campfire songs and poppy anthems. While 2005's Twilight Tales from the Prairies of the Sun evoked memories of early-day Santana and the Grateful Dead, the band's follow-up is often closer to the sweeping sounds of Arcade Fire than those jam-happy predecessors. Electric guitars and full-throttle drums have been added to the mix, and vocalist Scott Irby-Ranniar delivers a particularly Win Butler-esque performance on "Alone on the Sea." The song is consciously epic, with insistent kick-drummed percussion and chiming glockenspiel laying the brickwork for Ranniar's lyrics about the fallen Twin Towers (a subject he tackles throughout Trampoline). Elsewhere, the band turns in a number of smart, quirky pop songs, from the handclapped "Firecracker" -- one of the band's best songs yet -- to the harmonized country strains of "Women I Belong To." As before, Steel Train is still guided by strong songwriting and engaging melodies; the band has simply learned to fully dress up their songs, which now shine beneath a wardrobe of piano, auxiliary percussion, and acoustic/electric guitars. Alternately delicate and robust, precious and grandiose, Trampoline furthers Steel Train's journey into an eccentric place where Brian Wilson, Jellyfish, and John Fogerty all share the same Brooklyn rehearsal space.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey