Built Like Alaska’s In Troubled Times was an overall improvement on the band’s prior work. While their previous music was ordinary and forgettable, this album proved to be highly sentimental and creative. With eccentric elements and emotional lyrics, Built Like Alaska has established themselves as a credible indie-rock band.
Admittedly, when taking a first look at the album, I was unsure of its merit. “The Union Song” was a poor choice for opening track. While the rest of In Troubled Times is carefully assembled, “The Union Song” is a sloppy creation, with rough transitions and a multitude of components that, quite simply, do not fit well together. The song abruptly changes from slow to fast-paced, layers its vocals and instrumentals rather messily, and is a little overwhelming.
Although this first track lowered my hopes for the CD, after listening to the rest of it I found it to be quite enjoyable. In Troubled Times has the perfect combination of both acoustic, heart-warming songs and catchy upbeat tunes. “Famous Goodbyes” and “Fighting The Firmament” were undoubtedly the album’s two strongest tracks. They are also both profoundly original and experimental.
“Famous Goodbyes” begins with the sounds of a baby crying and people mumbling in the background. The melancholy sounds of the harmonica set the mood of nostalgia and despair. Similarly, “Fighting The Firmament” is a soft, short track without vocals. A siren is ringing in the background, along with the eerie sounds of a tambourine and banjo, conveying the sense of loss and distress. Its delicate melody is intricate and cathartic.
Overall, Built Like Alaska’s In Trouble Times was innovative, unique, and passionate. It made up for its disappointing opening track with an album full of authentic quirks and meaningful lyrics.