I have been listening to this album repeatedly, trying to find the correct approach to this piece of music. I haven’t seen it yet, but I am still listening and looking.
The album is by a band out of Toronto, one of the two epicentres of music in Canada, the other being Vancouver. For a band to rise above the rabble in Toronto is a feat in its own right. To put out an album of such high quality as this is incredible. Kudos to Sean-Patrick Nolan and Shawn Tucker, the cocreators of TRAITRS and this album, Horses In The Abattoir.
Let’s get that album name out of the way first. Horses in an abattoir are a bit unsettling. I know it happens, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read. Shawn Tucker gives some background to the name. “The theme of the record pulls heavily from the title: taking something innocent and beautiful and ending its life for no reason.”
The second thing that stood out at first glance was the band’s name, TRAITRS. I can honestly confess that I am not a fan of this type of wordplay. The proper phonetic spelling of traitors in American English is ˈtreɪtərz. In British writing, it is ˈtreɪtəz. In everyday English, it is trey-terz or trey-ders. I can see where they were coming from, but it’s just not my thing.
What is my thing is this album, Horses In The Abattoir. I still don’t have an angle on what is going on within this album. I hear a lot of 1980’s pop-synth, a tribute to those who have gone before, I suppose. If you are a fan of Wolf Parade, The Cure, New Order, The Smiths or Depeche Mode, you will, in all likelihood, enjoy this album. I did.
Putting all my criticism aside, this is good enough that TRAITRS should be headlining shows once it becomes safe to do so. In the interim, we can all do with some good listening to pass the hours and days of the pandemic enjoyably. Horses In The Abattoir will do that for you. I put this album on and went about some tasks, and before I knew it, done. So I played it again. And then I read the lyrics and listened with intent. I listened to hear the sounds within that we don’t hear when we treat music like elevator Musik.
“To me, this record is about passing time and ageing, the frailty and impermanence of existence. How everything we know and love exists briefly before disappearing into nothing. This record covers a wide emotional spectrum from the beautiful to the horrific, overwhelming strength to heartbreaking vulnerability. We started writing ‘Horses In The Abattoir‘ in Toronto during the summer of 2018 and continued writing the album on tour overseas. If there was any spare time between shows, we spent it writing in backstage areas, hotels and while crashing on the couches and floors of our closest friends. The album encapsulates both the promise and darkness that we experienced during this very exciting but equally intense period of our lives,” says Sean-Patrick Nolan.
“Professionally, TRAITRS was on the rise, and our shows were getting bigger and better, but personally, both Shawn and I felt like we were crumbling under the weight of personal loss, depression and exhaustion. It was a life-changing time period, for better and for worse, and ‘Horses’ documents both the darkness and light that Shawn and I endured during this time. Lyrically and musically, this is the most personal and brutally honest we have ever been. Blemishes and all, this is who we are.”
“The theme of the record pulls heavily from the title: taking something innocent and beautiful and ending its life for no reason. In retrospect, ‘Horses’ captures the darkest period of our entire lives, and that hurt bleeds out all over the record. I can definitely say we are still the same band, but certainly not the same inside ourselves. Somehow ‘Horses’ became its own beast and solidified its own place in the world. At times, it seemed like all we had left was ‘Horses,’ and the record felt much stronger and self-contained than us,” says Shawn Tucker.
“We stepped out of ourselves for a while, imploding, almost not finding our way back. It was a destructive time, and I didn’t even realize what was happening until the storm had finally passed. Despite all this, we had written 17 songs, over a hundred fragments and were excited to start a new phase of our career with Freakwave Records. When I hear this record, it pulls things out of me that you might not want to feel or confront, but that’s what making art should be about. This record’s filled with anger, sadness, beauty, hurt, love, loss and beyond. I’m very proud of this record. It’s our best work to date, hands down, our post-depression record.”
I agree it is TRAITRS’ best work to date, and it fits in perfectly with the dragged-out and tedious screed of the Covid era. The lyrics are clever and sung with the perfect voicing to convey the songs to us. I endorse this album without a second thought about its worthiness. If you like 80’s synth-pop, you absolutely must listen to this recording because it captures that era’s sound and gives it a modern take. I love it.
Horses In The Abattoir drops today, November 19, at the venues listed below. This album would be perfect for your weekend. Sit back with your beverage of choice, get comfortable and let the music soak into your brain.
This album was recorded with producer Josh Korody (F*cked Up, Japandroids, Dilly Dally, Beliefs, Nailbiter) at Candle Recording Studio and mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Prince, Linkin Park, Katy Perry).
‘Ghost and The Storm’ https://youtu.be/Uq6DkNOrdpk
‘Poison Mouths’ https://youtu.be/r60-7hFBeIY
‘Oh, Ballerina’ https://youtu.be/59Sw-xW2YJ4
‘Horses In The Abattoir’ LP order https://orcd.co/horsesintheabattoir
‘The Sick, Tired & Ill’ EP https://traitrs.bandcamp.com
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