Not long after the release of their latest single “I’m Fine”, Traceless brought us their debut EP, Obsession. It’s safe to say that since its release on January 22, 2021, I have been nothing less than obsessed with every single one of these six tracks. Between the stunning musicianship and their lyrical prowess, this American rock trio have big things ahead of them and I cannot wait to see the path they’re forging for themselves.
The EP opens with “I’m Fine” and I was thrilled that this was the first track on the record. Having acquainted myself with the song pretty well over the couple months since it came across my Instagram feed, I was instantly faced with something familiar. But knowing that there was more to come when this song was finished was something new, and something I didn’t realize I was craving until this first song echoes the final chords and you’re suddenly met with an absolutely pounding bass line of “Live A Lie”. I’m still struck each time with the urgency in the repeating line “I swear to god I’m fine.” As this song has played over and over, it really stuck out to me the more I heard it. Instead of a calm reassurance facing someone asking you if you’re okay, it’s more like an urgent push to try and convince yourself that you’re okay even when you feel like “okay” is the last thing you could possibly be.
This next track is a dark and twisted fantasy. With all the classic rock elements I love wrapped around an absolutely bangin’ breakdown that I never knew I needed from these guys, “Live A Lie” is probably my favorite track on the album. Derek’s raging vocals are impeccably blended with every riff Shaun forces from his guitar, every piece of the drum kit, and Nicole’s haunting electrical motifs in this song. The real highlight, though, is the breakdown. “You live a fuckin’ lie” breathed in your ear with that grungy guitar phrasing, then mixing in drums in the next, and eventually everything coming together with fervor and screams. I honestly do not have the ability to depict in words the driving movement this breakdown has. Go listen to it, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The title track of the EP, “Obsession,” starts off like the next big bedroom pop anthem. Complete with a watery guitar that melodically laces through the softer side of Derek’s vocal range (which by the way, is incredibly expansive and an absolute treat to listen to in any capacity.) It doesn’t take long though, for the song to come back around to Traceless’ now iconic and telling post-hardcore sound. The juxtaposition between the introductory verse and then the chorus and bridge is like being exposed to an auditory heaven. One minute you’re floating on calm waters and the next you’re fighting your way through tsunami sized waves, trying to make it back to shore with nothing but rage and sheer will. It’s an incredible experience and I think it’s more than worthy of being the title track for this album.
“Ghost” was the first single released from this EP and I can see why the band would want this to be the first impression listeners have of this collection. It painted a very clear picture of what was to come, and is a great highlight. The evocative musicianship along with the strong lyrics telling the story of being haunted by your past is quintessential of Traceless. I wish I would have listened to this track sooner, but I’m also glad that this was my first meeting with it. Feeling the way it fit in with the rest of the record was something I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate had I not saved it to be experienced while nestled in with the rest of these songs.
I’m a big fan of political discussion disguised as a rock song, and “What Will It Take” is just that. An absolute powerhouse of musical display combined with raw lyrics like “they’d rather make a profit/off the injustice” and “they’re scared of us/and what we could be” tastefully tackle the current political climate. Songs like this, that propel listeners to really pay attention and think about the changes they want to be made, are some of the most powerful in my opinion. The fact that Traceless do it in a way that’s not only raw and uninhibited but also gives power back to their audience is a true exhibition of the way music can create the kind of impact that inspires people to go out and change the world. I’m extremely glad they decided to include a song like this on the EP.
“War” feels like the antithesis of “I’m Fine,” the full circle moment bringing the album from the haunting notion of feeling incomplete and broken, to this power anthem showcasing the growth and self discovery that’s taken place in the expanse between the first and last tracks. Where “I’m Fine” felt like a cry for help, “War” feels like fighting a battle for yourself, by yourself. Against all odds, you’re determined to follow your dreams and if it comes to it, you will absolutely battle anything in your path to reach the finish line. This is a different kind of desperation, as opposed to “I’m Fine” with its urgency to convince yourself that you will be okay, “War” is a story of perseverance and dedication spent propelling yourself toward something that feels like destiny. This song reminds me a lot of a close friend. Someone who won’t let anything get in the way of their passion, who knocks down whatever obstacle stands between them and their next mission. That kind of dedication and perseverance is admirable, something I strive to remind myself I’m capable of too. When I need a reminder that I’m worth fighting for, and that I should fight for myself, this is my go-to.
This EP has been part of my weekly rotation since its release, and never once have I skipped a song. I’ve occasionally found myself parked in my car, waiting to get out until one of the tracks ends because I simply can’t get enough, and I feel each song is absolutely worth my full attention every time. Traceless have shown again that they are a group full of both raw and refined talent, a captivating affinity for composition, and an absolute mastery of production. These three are going big, big places and I highly recommend coming along for the ride.