From opening track, “Dragging the River,” Treadmill Trackstar identifies Leaving Ohio (its follow up to last year’s i belong to me) as a completely different animal. Gone are the synthy hits and dance beats. Instead, the feeling is heavier, darker, lush and sad, sweeping and anguished. “Why did I waste such precious time,” Angelo Gianni sings, his plaintive, aching voice perfectly matched by the spare guitar and mournful cello.
Like on belong, Treadmill Trackstar elevates its music far beyond the offhanded irony suggested by the band’s name. Instrumentation is minimalist yet orchestrated; the recording is crisp and the attention to detail — those accents that almost go unnoticed and yet mean so much — is what makes the album so utterly listenable. The kinetic whisper track on “Lions in the Woods” (one of the record’s more upbeat tracks, thanks to the muscle of percussion); glockenspiel and castanets on the shimmery waltz “Neruda Left the Room”; a reverberating hit of didgeridoo (recorded in Japan) on “Cardinal S.”
The title track is a cinematic, piano-fueled ballad, and it actually manages to further ramp up the emotional element. “You taught me something about heaven, then packed up and took it away,” Gianni sings. So is this a breakup song/album, or is it a tribute to someone who passed away? There’s that kind of weight and stark, scarred beauty. But where many a heartbreak opus is flawed by its own self-importance and cliched broken heart, Gianni’s lyrics and accompanying melodies manage to transcend mere angst to something far grander.
If Leaving isn’t the bubbly soundtrack for parties and first dates, its lyrical ebb and moody grace certainly has got its place on the playlist. Download the album for free here.