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Trace Mountains | Lost in the Country

Folk-rock meets The War on Drugs in this New York State outfit's sophomore set.

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Under the moniker Trace Mountains, Dave Benton writes music that asks large questions in quietly profound ways. On the project’s earliest release, the 2014 compilation Buttery Sprouts & Other Songs, these thoughts appeared as lo-fi scraps of wit and tenderness. But by the time A Partner to Lean On, Trace Mountains’ debut full-length, arrived in 2018, Benton’s perceptive indie rock had matured into more existential meditations about identity, existence, and finding sense in an increasingly chaotic world. In the two years since A Partner to Lean On, Benton’s life has undergone several large changes, namely the dissolution of LVL UP, the indie rock quartet he co-founded in college, and a move to Kingston, a small city in New York’s Hudson Valley. Composed during — but not directly inspired by — this transition, Trace Mountains’ second record, Lost in the Country, reflects Benton’s need to reconnect with his inner world. Prompted by an urge to access a more authentic voice, Lost in the Country finds Benton digging deeper into candid songwriting. “I wanted to open myself up and write lyrics that are a little bit more direct,” he explains. “I write a lot of songs that are about myself and a lot of songs that aren’t, but on this record, the focus is turned inward either way.” The result is Trace Mountains’ strongest and most assured record yet, 10 songs driven by a desire for introspection and self-discovery.”

MY TWO CENTS: Based on the name, album title and an instrumental arsenal that includes pedal steel and saw, you might logically assume that Trace MountainsLost in the Country is a rootsy, rustic affair through and through. And to some degree, you’d be right; some of these 10 tracks would definitely qualify as folk-rock by anyone’s measure. But plenty of other cuts — especially those featuring layers of keyboards, electronic textures or dirtier guitars reminiscent of leader Dave Benton’s old indie-rock outfit LVL UP — aren’t so easily classified. Or easily contained. Instead of remaining grounded in their pastoral field, they head for the hills, displaying the soaring expanse and sprawling sonic squall of a twangier, rural War on Drugs. No wonder singer-guitarist Benton seems to feel a little lost. Truth be told, you might feel a little disoriented from time to time yourself. But in a good way.