…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, “IX”
Conrad Keely wants you to believe that the title of Trail of Dead’s latest record is a Dune reference. And maybe it is. But by calling their ninth record IX, the increasingly cosmopolitan quartet highlight how long they’ve been around and, by implication, how far removed they are from 2002’s shadow-casting Source Tags & Codes. But IX comes closer to replicating Source Tags’ fractured romanticism than anything the group have done since. “There’s a curse upon your home / There’s a sadness in this room,” Keely sings over plaintive piano lines in “The Ghost Within.” The dissonance between those two lines—the way that first one covers up and tries to excuse the second, and the way the second is deepened by the first—resounds through much of IX and is largely responsible for its success; when Trail of Dead are on, few are better at using high drama to cover a bruise.