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In the midst of the terrific heat of summer, it seems only appropriate that the public receive a release from The Trophy Fire.  The San Francisco powerpop trio releases ‘Armor ‘ today, June 14th, through Greyday Records, even as they are due for their sophomore album in September 2011.

With soothing vocals and catchy hooks, The Trophy Fire takes the best of early 80s bands like Tears for Fears and U2, throws in some Jimmy Eat World power pop, and accents the music with their own genuine lyrics, creating a sound all their own.  Ben Flanagan is the vocalist backed by brothers Adam and John Schuman who have been playing together since grade school.  Armor follows The Trophy Fire’s 2008 debut, A Lifetime in the Middle of the Ocean, and the group has several West Coast tour dates scheduled in support of it.

The Trophy Fire immediately shakes things up with Armor’s first track, “Glow.”  In this pulsing dance-worthy tune Flanagan announces, “Darling you should know I’d burn up in a fire before I’d let you down.”  This vow is soon followed however by hesitation.

The orchestral title track meanders through a river of ruminations, noting, “You’ve got good armor, it shines, it’s impenetrable, it functions better than mine.” And the singer considers that perhaps he’s not good enough for the relationship at hand; maybe his love would be better off with someone else.  As the synth strings build, the tinge of sadness deepens into despondency.  “Your victory” – a life without me – “is at hand.”

Armor carries on with “The Last American Phone Booth” an upbeat song about hope.  And here near the center, The Trophy Fire embeds the gem of the album, “Chasing the Ghost.”  From beginning to end, this song captivates.  It moves at different speeds throughout, quick then haunting, propulsive then deliberate as the lyrics intimately detail the moment of desire.  The keyboard bass notes and guitars splendidly blend to make this song an immersion experience.

“Take control if you care at all” is the command of “Lies,” a song too lovely for its despairing lyrics.  The Trophy Fire completes Armor with the mournful but resolute “Bend.”  The acoustic guitars enhance the vulnerability expressed in the lines, “I am just now seeing that I am on the mend.  You can try to break me and I will try to bend.”

The Trophy Fire may have discovered that their true armor is derived from an inner strength.

Rating: 4/5

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Free download: The Trophy Fire – “Chasing the Ghost”

Tour Dates

07.08 • Bottom of the Hill (San Francisco, CA)

07.22 • Hawthorne Theatre (Portland, OR)

07.23 • El Corazon (Seattle, WA)

07.24 • The Venue (Boise, ID)

07.26 • Black Sheep (Colorado Springs, CO)

07.27 • Launch Pad (Albuquerque, NM)

07.29 • Nile Theatre (Mesa, AZ)

07.31 • Soma Sidestage (San Diego, CA)

08.02 • The Glass House (Pomona, CA)

08.03 • SLO Brewing Company (San Luis Obispo, CA)

08.04 • Music In the Park 2011 (San Jose, California)

08.05 • Ace of Spades (Sacramento, CA)

08.06 • Great American Music Hall (San Francisco, CA)

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