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"Shaky Science"

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Trouble Books: 'Shaky Science'

Trouble Books: 'Shaky Science'

"Shaky Science"

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Trouble Books 300 i

Trouble Books performing in Grand Rapids, MI. hide caption

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Trouble Books 300

Trouble Books performing in Grand Rapids, MI.

It's easy to get lost in the eclectic soundscapes of Ohio-based band Trouble Books' fourth self-released album, The United Colors of Trouble Books. The album plays out like a wandering trip through a 13 year-old's subconscious, set to beautifully unique, experimental music. The gorgeous mix of meandering instrumental arrangements, expansive ambiance, and wonderfully earnest vocals creates a sort of spacey chamber pop that seems to float wherever the wind may take it.

The childlike timidity and stripped-down honesty of the vocals on stand-out tracks "Shaky Science" and "CFHC" echo Sufjan Stevens and Kimya Dawson. But musically the songs are neither overly orchestrated nor bare-bones. Instead, Trouble Books weave multiple melodic lines from countless instruments of different timbres in and out, adding and dropping sounds on airy whims. The sound is never thick nor thin and avoids typical structure or direction. And yet, despite its seeming aimlessness, something about the songs makes sense; the tracks stand as fragmented, "shaky," imagist's portrayals of pop songs.

When the band began work on the album, it described the project as "doodles in notebooks" in its MySpace blog, but went on to write, "Maybe we'll have a new song up soon and scans of the doodles." The literal and figurative doodles of the band make the record as much a visual experience as a musical one, whether it be through the quirky, hand-drawn cover art (the record was only released on vinyl with a CDr version included, the packaging for which is hand screen printed and spray painted on inside out, reused, old LP sleeves) or the dreamlike images painted in the group's lyrics. Musically, The United Colors of Trouble Books is like a collage — a spattering of musical ideas juxtaposed with each other to create a larger picture.

The album closes with "Personal Tornados," a dream sequence with a gun, a giraffe, fireworks, tiny tornadoes, and wind blown hair. The surreal images of the song are a fitting end to the fractured-fairy tale that is the album, and the song's closing lines seem too perfect: "I can't explain why, but it feels like heaven to me / I can't explain why, but I wake up happy."

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