EP: Trading Vices – Kindred American Spirits

Detroit garage rockers, Trading Vices, capture mood and melancholy with their latest acoustic EP, Kindred American Spirits. In a time where pop artists are releasing bloated, inflated albums with run times of almost 2 hours and 20+ tracks, KAS clocks in at just over 10 minutes for 5 tracks. This isn’t a blanket statement to say that brevity always means better, but here there is something fleeting and raw the band has managed to capture in this compact and stripped-down record.

Opening track, “444,” sets the tone with its raw honesty and introspective lyricism. The opening line of “I’d probably benefit if I were to call it quits” underscores a sense of uncertainty and vulnerability, as the speaker grapples with the allure of risk and the fear of walking away. The rhythm provides a bright backdrop while the lead saunters through a scale that some might dabble in calling Midwest emo, so much so that fans of early Tigers Jaw or acoustic Worst Party Ever records will find themselves right at home as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Darren Zielke-Platt, let’s their unpared vocals repeat the refrain and semi-defeat of “anyways” over and over again.

“Bittersweet” delves into the realm of memory and nostalgia, which, along with cigarettes and smoke, are withstanding threads that weave through the lyrics of themes of Kindred American Spirits. My favorite track on the record, what compels me most about this song (aside from the bright yet somehow utterly devastating opening chords) is how Zielke-Platt’s vocals are pushed lower into the mix, the music fighting for the main stage in your eardrum. On an acoustic EP, especially one as raw and organic as this one, fewer production tricks are at one’s disposal, but the choice here is a welcome one — it allows the record to break through the potential monotony of 5 acoustic songs in a row.

“Earthquaker Sponsor Me Tape,” the first single from the EP, hits the themes of distance and change within relationships with no care for the listener’s emotional safety. The track’s longing instrumentation and plaintive vocals convey how deep the speaker’s yearning and resignation run. “I miss you, I love you, I really wish you around” is such a plain and simple way to put the feeling, and it hits without a hitch. The lyrics on this track, and all of Kindred American Spirits, are a true north star for the record. There is a simplicity in the storytelling that masterfully manages to walk the line from personal to universal. “I thought that I knew you, but you’re different now” is a line that sinks deep into the membrane of the heart. We’ve all experienced loss, change, and the growing pains of relationships, and Trading Vices wants to squeeze that fruit for a little more juice.

The titular track, “Kindred American Spirits,” and closing track “Your Apartment” drive the final two nails in the coffin of a record that asks, ‘what am I to do with these feelings I cannot give up?’ On “Kindred American Spirits,” there are only four lines that Zielke-Platt leaves us with (and also a brief acoustic guitar solo, this one is a treat, folks), and the emotional wreckage they leave behind is reflective of the landscape of those who seek closure but are unable to find it.

Kindred American Spirits showcases Trading Vices’ ability to draw visceral emotion with just some vocals and six strings. The record was produced by Darren Zielke-Platt and the artwork was done by lead guitarist, Dakota Reynolds. Through lyrics brushed bittersweet and melodies that dance in step, the EP invites listeners to the back porch, to the apartment, to the closed rooms where we sit alone in our aching, offering a solemn reflection on how the journey of moving forward is often not an easy one. With heartfelt sincerity, Trading Vices and Kindred American Spirits is a hand holding an ashing cigarette, it won’t take long to get through, but the smoke of it will linger.

Written by Nish Ahmed