The sophomore album from Chase Tremaine called Development & Compromise is truly a labor of love, as much as it’s a thorough exploration in what it means to find your place in this crazy thing called life. The album was recorded over a ten-day span, and was produced, engineered, and mixed by Sean Power at the Hilson Studio. Whereas Tremaine’s debut (Unfall) took an introspective look at his search for finding his “true north,” this album expands upon these thematic elements with a more universal approach to investigating the human element of life with rich musical landscapes. While not as immediately gratifying as his debut record, Development & Compromise rewards the listener on repeat listens as you dive headfirst into everything Tremaine has set forth on this comprehensive album.
The album opens with an extremely brief instrumental track and cuts away into the aggressive “Shock My Ears.” Tremaine switches up his vocal cadence with some bouncy starts and stops in the opening verse as he sings, “A spark of voltage so close to the brain / It feels a little insane / But you don’t see me stopping / I cannot finish this experiment / Until I learn the secret / Or you catch my body dropping (oh, my ears are popping).” It’s hard to not notice the newfound confidence in his vocal delivery, and he commands the track from the onset to make for a memorable opener.
My personal favorite from the record, “Fear Not Want,” has some great-sounding guitar tones and unfolds majestically as the beauty of the song takes shape on the heart-felt chorus. Tremaine sings cautiously, “I’m not good enough to get / If I’m still paying off all my debt / To want & love’s a risky bet / So why does this angel tell me, ‘Fear not’?” His admission of not being perfect comes across as incredibly genuine, but the optimism of feeling like there bigger powers at play in his life makes for an interesting listening experience as the lyrics stick with you long after the notes have all been played.
Tremaine’s improved lyrics continue to be noticed on other songs such as “Development,” where he sings with passion about falling in love as he mentions, “She fell into my arms, which made me drop the ball / Not sure which mattered more after all / I looked below but can’t tell where she’d fall / If I dropped her to catch the next doll / Little did I know after her would come a book / And after a book, a game, but the real hook / Was when the doll became a girl, just a look / Could leave my whole system shook.” The track is a well-crafted love song about what makes us want to find the connections to others and the wanting to be a better person for the people we care for the most.
The true beauty of this album comes in the form of “Wings Not Made To Fly,” as Tremaine investigates the questions that this world has to offer. The song is reminiscent of Thrice’s “Air” record from The Alchemy Index and hits a similar chord through his approach to the track. Tremaine wonders, “Eyes are for seeing — but here, I am blind / Are answers before me — or was I left behind / Forgotten, abandoned — are these even real? / If I am broken, can my breaking also heal?” and through his exploration he starts to find some of his answers to many of these difficult questions.
Look no further than the song composed mostly on the piano, “Madison,” where Tremaine sings on the second verse, “This may not be a ghost town / You can’t deny I’m haunted / To unearth who you are now / Both wished for and unwanted / Have I the courage to think / That all is as it should be? / Or the cowardice to drink / My poisonous fantasy.” It becomes increasingly clear that through his quest to find answers, he is being haunted with even more questions left along the way. The song leaves the listener with the eerie last lines of “What’s done is done / I know / I don’t know…” that seems to intentionally contradict the point of discovering more along his journey.
Tremaine gives a brief detour of the positive vibes on the abrasive, “Q2FN,” where he makes it crystal clear on the pitfalls of one-sided relationships. On the second verse he mentions, “With big talk, deadlock, I was baited / But called your bluff when my happiness faded / And I couldn’t put in effort anymore / So I said ‘I’ve got to go’ / I wouldn’t read a letter about you anymore / So I said ‘I gotta go'” and it’s hard to not empathize with him as we’ve all likely encountered a similar relationship in our own lives.
”A Compromise” bookends the other half of the main path of the album title, and makes for another important artistic statement along the way. Tremaine admits early on, “It’s hard to get a grip on a slippery slope / And convince yourself that you’ll stand tall / It’s hard to throw away methods you used to cope / And not think that everything will fall / It’s harder when you fall mad in love with someone / That you’ll never get a chance to see / And then your life becomes a big countdown to none / Of how many promises you keep.” His insight on relationships is heartfelt and earnest, and he also provides some pretty good advice along the way too.
The album closes out with the guitar-bliss of “Roethke” that features some of the more interesting guitar riffs Tremaine has ever experimented with, and further rounds out these ideas on “Wired Side of Content.” On the latter track, he tinkers with spiraling guitar riffs in between his insightful lyrics of, “Innocence stolen from a man / But was it there when he began? / He can remember all his dreams / Because he saw them on the screen / Plug me back up and fill me in / Notify my once again / Whether the sky is sun or moon / I’ve got light inside my room (I’ve got light inside my tomb).”
Chase Tremaine leaves his listeners with as many questions as he does with the answers posed on this record, and that’s perfectly fine. This album, to me, is about learning that the journey is just as important as start or the end, and discovering the importance of finding your own path. Life is not a straight line. It takes us through blissful times, dark periods, and peaks and valleys in between. Development & Compromise chooses to focus on the in-between moments of self-discovery and I can’t help but marvel at the development of Chase Tremaine as an evolving singer-songwriter looking at making his creative stamp on the music scene.