Sleepercar (not to be confused with Sleeper Car) began with the demise of At the Drive-In. Then a guitarist for At the Drive-In, Jim Ward conceptualized the idea of an alt-country in the waning days of ATDI, writing “Fences Down” at a sound check on their final tour.
For those not familiar with At the Drive-In, they were kind of crazy in an artistic way. The band was together for the better part of a decade before finally scoring a minor hit with “One-Armed Scissor” in 2000. Shortly after the subsequent world tour, the band broke up indefinitely.
Enter Sleepercar. With a sound nothing like At the Drive-In or his other band, Sparta, Jim Ward has created Texas’s answer to Wilco. Their forthcoming album, West Texas, is due out on April 22. West Texas tends toward the mellow side of alternative-country; possibly influenced by popular acts like Death Cab for Cutie.
“A Broken Promise” opens the album. Jim Ward overlaps melodic vocals with a persistent guitar line. Did I hear a tambourine? It is probably the most radio-friendly of the bunch, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it hit national alternative radio stations soon.
“Wasting My Time” follows, with the most powerful hook on the album. It’s alt-country with a little aggression. If it were my choice, this would be the direction of the genre.
“Fences Down slows down the album significantly, with country-bar steel pedal guitar. I genuinely feel like I’m sitting on a porch in a West Texas night listening to this song. I feel confident saying that it most likely inspired the album cover.
As a whole, I’m a little divided on my final verdict here. About half of the album is solid, making me hope for more. The other half is a little boring. If you don’t play a lot of it loud it’s very easy to tune out.
If you’re into sleepy music, this may be for you.
Recommended Downloads: “A Broken Promise,” “Wasting My Time,” “Kings and Promises”