In his recent profile of indie rock supergroup Boygenius, Uproxx’s Steven Hyden noted that the Voltron-esque formation by three of the best songwriters going is less of a vision into indie’s future vitality than it is a reflection of the current times. “While sexism continues to pervade the music business, it’s hardly unique in 2018 for women to take a leading role in bands, or even to fill every role in a band,” he wrote. “All-female bands aren’t “the future” of indie, they’re the present.”
The same can, or at least should, be said of Los Angeles’ The Tracks, a group made up of first-generation Americans, all children of undocumented immigrants like the many whose stories have become major points of debate during the Trump administration. Just this week, the United States is sending thousands of troops to the border to block a mass immigration, attempting to use force to stop the kind of refugee process that has been an integral part of Californian, and American, history for hundreds of years. It’s the cultural climate that makes the music and stories of those facing the most oppression — Black people, women, immigrants and the children of immigrants, the LGBTQ community — feel like the music and stories that need to be heard. And it’s through this lens that The Tracks debut album feels like an essential release.
Of course, none of this would matter as much if the music wasn’t really great. For the last couple years, the four-piece made up of frontman Venancio Bermudez, guitarist Johnny Santana, bassist Felipe Contreras, and drummer Jimmy Conde, have been impressing crowds with furious live shows across their home city, walking the tightrope between polished juggernaut and untamed beast, well-practiced and tight when they need to be and unhinged and wild when they don’t. It’s a spirit that is very much present on the debut album, Treasured Memories, which pulses with blood and drips with sweat in a manner that few debuts are able. It’s the sound of a band with day jobs and obligations using their art to try to build better lives for themselves and everyone around them. It’s a story as old as rock and roll itself.
A key part of what makes The Tracks resonate is the voice of Bermudez. It’s easy to hear the influence of the patron saint of Chicano musicians, Morrissey, in his delivery, as well as the rock revivalism of The Strokes. Bermudez manages to punch up the theatrical mania he undoubtedly grew up listening to without coming across like a throwback himself. And for his backing band’s part, they play along with the influences, coming across like the audio equivalent of a leather jacket and pomade, turning a sense of style into a well-rounded aesthetic.