The Von Trapps: This is the Von Trapps (2002)

by Brent

The Von TrappsThe Von Trapps, whose very name conjures up classic images of sing-along songs in the face of impending and approaching doom, are a group with a mystifying history. The subject of much internet message board hype, The Von Trapps were touted by some as being the group who would restore dreampop to the levels of esteem it once enjoyed among music lovers. Some even boldly noted that the music of The Von Trapps was compelling enough to receive mainstream attention. However, this seemingly mysterious band from Los Angeles had no official releases to their name…only 2 or 3 wonderful mp3’s that hinted to the band’s greatness. The momentum was building in The Von Trapps‘ favour.

Yet, just like for their famous on-screen namesake, dark undertones surfaced around The Von Trapps before any music was ever released from them. While they were not fighting Nazi’s like the onscreen Von Trapps, the band nonetheless did come to the realization that the dynamics were not ideal. Hence, on the eve of their first release, the simply titled This is the Von Trapps, the group announced its intentions to disband. Choosing to dissolve after they released their ep, though, thankfully leaves fans with some concrete product in their hands to chronicle the result of their anticipation. But, the 4 song ep is oh so much more. This is The Von Trapps gives music lovers a slight hint of the talent of this glorious band and leaves fans aching for more.

Sonically, This is The Von Trapps finds the 5-piece band moving slightly to the centre from their more experimental dreampop mp3 songs. The 4 songs on the ep, while retaining much of the dreampop ethos with lingering guitar lines and beautifully layered vocals, instead focus on the songwriting talents of the band. Each song (especially tracks 2-4) are well-written fully formed musical ideas that are fleshed out in luxurious arrangements. While many dreampop acts are content to coat ridiculously simplistic songs in layers of affected guitars, The Von Trapps show a remarkable knack for writing catchy and soothing songs, as well as choosing the right arrangements for each song (made all the more impressive due to the fact that the ep is self-produced).

This is The Von Trapps starts out with the surprisingly jangly “Go With Me”, a song in which lead singer Jen sings with vibrancy (almost sounding at times like Bangles‘ lead singer Susanna Hoffs). On the remaining three songs of the ep, The Von Trapps exercise their dreampop muscles in varying intensities. From the flowing, cascading vocal harmonies of the slightly dark “Waiting”, to the intimate and ballad-like “Rollercoaster”, to the more expansive and full sound of “The Day We Met”, The Von Trapps show a remarkable ability to write and execute different variations on the dreamier side of music using melodies and vocal arrangements, and not just fancy guitar pedals. Yet, as evidenced in the climactic outro in “The Day We Met”, The Von Trapps know how to play layers of guitars with the best of them, leading the listener to a glorious epiphany. And what a fitting way to end This is The Von Trapps, with a burst of guitars that are reminiscent of the mp3’s so adored by fans. The song brings to a close the legend of this band, as they go full-circle to the sound that garnered them the attention in the first place.

This ep is, for me, the front-runner for ep of the year, It’s THAT good. And, it gives the listener a chance to only dream about what kinds of music this group could have created had they endured longer as a functioning unit. But, for now, the legend of The Von Trapps is fulfilled in This is The Von Trapps. All somewherecolders need this ep.

PS: Jen and Rod of The Von Trapps were involved in a group called Elysium before The Von Trapps. More 4AD influenced than The Von Trapps, this band is also great for those who dig The Von Trapps.

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