Louisville, Kentucky’s Follow The Train has crafted an immensely complex album out of very little in A Breath of Sigh. The album is distinctly low key, I’d even go as far to say minimalist in design and execution. Comprising lead guitar, bass, drums, and synth, it molds these separate chords into a singular voice. A Breath of Sigh is not an album you’ll “get” right off the bat. Hell, I hated the opening track, “Endless Summer,” for the longest time. But something happened, something changed, as I sat down to listen once again.
Amazing—everything I loathed blossomed into a mute dance in melancholy. Through listening to the rest of the album, I realized that “Endless Summer” was there to bring me down to a base state, a tabla rasa, from which Follow The Train could shape my experience. Flowing into the second track, the environment began to change. The tempo picked up, the guitar chords plucked higher, Dennis Sheridan’s voice morphed into a rhythmic wave pattern. Up, down, Up, down, Up, downdowndown. It is here that the guitar and synth fuse subtly to create a very sharp atmosphere, dark, frantic, a “something isn’t quite right with me but I can’t touch it” quality. As the album continued playing, I noticed the vocals carrying a strong, yet restrained emotion, a volcano ready to erupt. With macabre fury, this atmospheric tension shattered open, a thousand shards of glass on a dance floor. Track four is a highlight on the album, as it contains elements of synth-pop and a danceable sensibility. The impression I got from it was a panic attack. The first three songs were building up to this point, the energy pulsating, blood flowing, a mind out of control. It made me want to move, to run, to sway to it.
I hit a wall going 80 MPH. At least, that’s what it felt like when that song ended. This is where I noticed an identity crisis of sorts, the album shifting sounds from synth-pop to a more laid-back feel, injected with a dash of jazz. It shadows the opening track until midway through it erupts into a guitar/synth duet. The energy picks back up until they return to that frantic, paranoia-pop feel of the synth heavy tracks.
This repeats itself, slow steady rock, lightning synth-pop, etc. That is, until the final track, which merges these two into a fitting end. Feeling like a closing song, the synth used here is for ambience, while the guitar work is as prominent as is the vocals. Emotion is not as restrained, released more naturally accompanied by gang choruses. Summing up the energy and emotional experience in a final blaze of glory.
While overall I enjoyed this record, a few points of contention arose. As I mentioned before, the ‘identity crisis’ I heard was in the indecision of whether to make an ambient rock record, or a fast moving synth-pop record. A Breath of Sigh might have made more sense had it been split into two EPs released months between each other, so that the maximum impact of each could be felt. The only other strike is that around the halfway point of the album, Dennis Sheridan’s vocals sound heavily manipulated through studio effects. To a more disciplined ear, it will certainly come across as a bit grating. His voice would tremendously benefit from going au naturale. These few minor gripes aside, Follow The Train’s A Breath of Sigh is a locomotive worth stowing away on.