When we last left Trust on TRST they were delving deep into goth electro that had a retro twist to it while still feeling futuristic. Robert Alfons, who collaborated with Maya Postepski on the album, created a very distinct sound built on 90’s synth beats with 80’s goth sensibilities. They were an easy band to like, and with the image of Alfons, a young James Dean-like front man, and Postepski, Chloe Sevigny-type with nerd glasses, their brand seemed fresh. Their music created a mood, which for a lot of fans created a very close connection to the band. When Postepski left the project, it became clear that Trust was really a Robert Alfons project, so it seemed a bit weird for fans to have this affinity with the band that was essentially Alfons, who just happened to be notoriously shy. With Joyland, Trust’s second album, Alfons has separated himself from the first album and has created a clearer and broader album, one richer with a wider range of emotions.
With Trust’s music, the low tones coupled with Alfons alternating droning and falsetto vocals allows for a different interpretations of the abstract journey. TRST had a slightly sci-fi bent to its goth melodies, like a cyberpunk soundtrack to an unpublished Philip K. Dyck or William Gibson novel. Joyland actually seems like a proper sequel because it still seems to be rooted in the same world of TRST but now has more evolved characters and more complicated adventures. “Slightly Floating” starts the album off with a very audacious slow track that begins the adventure as if waking out of a dream and not quite in the world yet. “Geryon” thrusts us back into familiar goth dance territory especially with the echoing drum hits that punctuates “Chrissy E” from the previous album. “Capitol” gives us an electric-piano-riff intro into another drum hit heavy track, but here it’s the shifting low/high vocals of Alfons that really highlight it. It’s sort of comical the way the vocals are so low they’re almost intentionally unintelligible, which is different for this sort of music but certainly fits the mood. The first surprise comes with the title track “Joyland” which is what it sounds like, a theme song to a Disneyland park ride which is celebrating 90’s dance music or maybe just Aqua. I’m pretty sure Alfons is a fan of the Danish-Norweigan pop group, and even though I despised Aqua for their incessant infectious pop tunes, I find it more delightfully humorous and even appropriate here on the album. I find it curious that Alfons chose this to be the title track though, perhaps it’s more a symbolic statement of separation from TRST, but it’s a risky musical path to walk when you dabble with a potentially annoying sound. “Are We Arc?” comes next which really solidifies Joyland as a more mature journey, it’s very 80’s synth pop and is more about the feeling than the dancing. “Icabod” and “Four Gut” are solid goth synthpop numbers before it builds to “Rescue, Mister” which is more of a banger, and also the first single. “Lost Souls/Eelings” comes around again to some 90’s beats, unlike “Joyland” though this seems more authentic and natural for the band’s sound. “Peer Pressure” is a pretty basic late 90’s dance number which feels a bit forced, as if there was peer pressure to have more dancey numbers on the album. “Barely” ends the album nicely with a slower track which Trust seems to do really well, and even though the vocals sound clear, they still seem delightfully ambiguous, like poetry without words.
Joyland is a wonderful sophomore album from Robert Alfons who seems to really want to make his own mark on a project that he once shared. It takes us on a similar journey to TRST but one with a different feel, a different perspective, with different emotional responses. There’s a few choices on Joyland which seem a bit forced, perhaps from some overcompensation for the direction Alfons really wanted to take with this album, but even those don’t seem that out of place on an album that proves that goth kids can sometimes have a bit of fun.
– Michael Unger