From He(r)e To Ethernity: For Tracy Hyde in 5 Songs
We look back at the creative evolution of the great dream-pop band before its disbandment
This feature is part of This Side of Japan issue #61. You can return to the main newsletter here.
The break-up of For Tracy Hyde came as a surprise because the dream-pop band seemed to still had so much life left in them. Their late 2022 entry Hotel Insomnia hinted at several new musical directions they could have taken next. The record’s overall mix-like feel was refreshing in itself coming from a band so devoted to the album format, going far as packaging one release with a literal film poster as its cover art. As they upped the ante with each album, they always held up the promise of their cinematic ideals with the band’s best songs utilizing the magic of dream pop and shoegaze to blow up feelings like desire and yearning into a larger-than-life force.
To honor For Tracy Hyde before their disbandment in March, I charted the band’s growth through one song chosen from each of their albums, starting from their 2016 LP, Film Bleu. Here’s a crash course into the band’s incredible body of work.
“Her Sarah Records Collection” [P-Vine, 2016]
Recorded as early as 2012, “Her Sarah Records Collection” suggests the foundations of For Tracy Hyde’s music have been established even before the band put out their debut album Film Bleu. While the translucent jangle pop reminiscent of the likes of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart remains a signature sound for certain, the way the band incorporates nostalgia carries over to their future records. “Her Sarah Records collection / and that feeling of summer love,” singer eureka closes out the song, and the evocative music places an image of that emotion better than words ever can.
…from Film Bleu (2016)
See also: “Shady Lane Sherbet”
“Floor” [P-Vine, 2017]
For Tracy Hyde’s he(r)art invited comparisons to films not only from its cover art stylized as a literal movie poster but also through its thematic cohesion as well as a sequencing that resembled a narrative arc. “Cinematic” as a descriptor comes to mind, too, for “Floor” with music that elevates an everyday scene into a production that feels larger than life. Rather than conjuring blurry shoegaze, the band polish their guitar tones into a sleek sound that aim closer to flowery, The 1975-esque funk. The music is still all in service to lyrics about being transfixed by desire: “You make me almost forget how to breathe / please wait a little,” eureka sighs as the guitars bloom into an iridescent riff. Yet with them sporting an urban sound, the song feel not like a dream but a story happening somewhere close to home.
…from he(r)art (2017)
See also: “Underwater Girl”
“Girl’s Searchlight” [P-Vine, 2019]
While New Young City sees the sound and structure of a For Tracy Hyde album come together in full, it also showcases how sharp the band’s songwriting had become. The strength of the songs goes deeper than the pretty dream-pop sounds heard on the surface as the album packs some of their best choruses. The big punch in “Girl’s Searchlight” in particular mystifies not so much with an overwhelming, heady rush summoned through a spike in volume and reverb levels. It instead sounds clear as day as it hits on a feeling of grace, weightlessness, complete bliss—how it might feel to let go of reservations and fully give in to desire.
…from New Young City (2019)
See also: “Can Little Birds Remember?”
“Interdependence Day (Part I)” [P-Vine, 2021]
If For Tracy Hyde’s discography follows a similar arc to the albums by another great dream-pop great M83, then the band’s Ethernity is their Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming—indie film gone blockbuster. It’s their most epic production blasting big-screen sounds and hi-def nostalgia: the references are specific both in cribbed styles and actual lyrical nods to spark the most vivid flashback as possible. “Interdependence Day (Part I)” hits upon an intense yet elusive feeling through its rush of shoegaze as well as lyrics tugging at concrete, American memories—“Blockbuster, Coke, pizza and ‘I love you’”—like it’s trying to piece together a dream from the scattered details. By threading together surreal sounds and cultural touchstones, For Tracy Hyde indulge in the hyperreal.
…from Ethernity (2021)
See also: “Just Like Fireflies”
“Milkshake” [P-Vine, 2022]
The music of For Tracy Hyde had began to diversify in Hotel Insomnia with the band expanding their own definition of dream pop once again. Some of the album’s delights came from songs that ditched their often-compact pop songwriting for longer drifts in the ether, which best expressed the lulls from sleeplessness referenced in the title. My favorite track, “Milkshake,” meanwhile, played it fast and loose, digging into the post-punk roots of shoegaze through its white-hot guitar riff. The songs of Hotel Insomniac pulled the band into different directions, each reinvigorating as potential future pursuits. For Tracy Hyde had sharpened much of their craft over the course of four albums, and yet their last showed they still had so much life left in them.
…from Hotel Insomnia (2022)
See also: “Subway Station Revelation”
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