Traffik Island


Last year Traffik Island’s Zak Olsen steered his solo project away from its folk roots and into the arms of sweaty, late night funk figures with shades of Big Beat looming large. It seems that, while there’s a psychedelic overtone to the band’s works, Traffik Island remains a bit of a catch-all for Zak’s solo whims. In that regard he keeps things stylistically unlocked on the band’s third offering, A Shrug of the Shoulders. Perhaps that title is more apt than it might let on. Quite a bit of the record returns to the folk explorations that were so potent on the debut, but there’s also a pop eclecticism to this record that announces that Olsen won’t be tied down by expectations or genre. Traffik Island isn’t an entity that can be defined by its past, it would seem.

The record ambles easily through lite jam rock, lounge-lit piano winkers, blues shuffle, psych-pop, and folk but the most consistent feeling is the cocked smile from Olsen that belays an “expect nothing,” answer to those trying to feel out the boundaries of the Island. I’m still always the most charmed by the psych-folk and folk-pop persona on him. The Sad Barrett / Kevin Ayers inklings tangle around “You Do, Don’t You?” still feel like his sweet spot. Yet even the cleaner croons on single “All The Money in the World,” and “Babylon Blues” feel like he’s finding his footing as he pushes against stability on the warblers like “Lights Out,” or the instrumentals that envelop collage and soundtrack jazz. While the record is certainly more uneven than either of his others, it still boasts a great deal of gems among the reeds. When Olsen is gets it right, his songs shimmer with an enviable autumn light that’s always gonna get me coming back.

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