The Captain of Sorrow – Racetrack Babies 

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Hans-Christian’s project The Captain of Sorrow features twelve songs born from creative daring we don’t often hear from modern acts. The distinctly European sensibility powering Racetrack Babies’ inspired guitar driven alternative rock seems to draw from an inexhaustible well of musical imagination and embodies Hans-Christian’s hope that each of the album’s dozen songs could well be played by an entirely different band. It isn’t easy to aspire for such heights and bring everything together in a sensible way, but Hans-Christian is working with an ideal cast of fellow musicians who spark with crackling interplay throughout a variety of musical styles. Racetrack Babies is one of the more electrifying indie rock release in recent memory for me because it sounds so natural, so lacking in premeditation, and yet never misses its songwriting marks.  

There’s almost a punky vibe to the way Racetrack Babies kicks off with the track “Hollow Empty Void” but it’s sweetened by some unexpected vocal touches along the way. The drumming is recorded with a lot of immediacy, a quality shared by the collection overall, and the relentless push given to the song thanks to its percussion holds listener’s attention. The same authoritative push continues with the song “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, but The Captain of Sorrow fix their attentions more on creating a strong groove with this one and the guitar touches adorning the performance give it a little melodic lift. The energy level spikes again with “Buzzword Surfers”, but there’s a nearly equal focus on getting over a strong melody that makes it a sleek pop rocker with a wide individual streak. One of the album’s more interesting stylistic shifts comes with the song “The Captain of Sorrow” and couples an inventive bass line, lean guitar playing, and a surprisingly bluesy feel with gospel-esque backing vocals that provide an entertaining counterpoint to Hans-Christian’s voice. “Anti Anti” is another melodic gem pared to the bone and perhaps poised to be one of Racetrack Babies’ real sleeper tunes.  

“Park the Bench” is a song that shows the remarkable chemistry this band has for complementing each other’s musical ideas. Christian’s emphasized that his musical partners contribute much to the performances and the dividends gained from that approach come through most strongly on dynamically arranged songs like “Park the Bench”. They keep an impressive delicacy credible with their moments of all out guitar rock and “Siamese Scars” perfects that approach. The ingeniously envisioned tune takes on some difficult and certainly dramatic subject matter and gives it an appropriately gripping backing. “The Lunar Ticks” features the album’s best bass playing and the infectious riff sticks with you long after the song ends. There’s a muscular, blues rock feel informing the second to last cut “Mississippi Assassins” and this European outfit sounds wholly credible once again taking on more traditionally American fare, but Racetrack Babies revisits The Captain of Sorrow’s core strengths for the finale “Skull Coppers” and the slashing, rough-hewn guitar has all the energy you’d want for a closing number. The unusual artistic vision poured into this release makes the collection something more memorable than your standard indie rock outing and that added spark of imagination is the essence of what makes The Captain of Sorrow’s Racetrack Babies one of best releases in early 2018.  

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Sebastian Cole