Trembling Blue Stars

Robert Wratten was a heartbroken guy.

For a few years, in the late 80s, early 90s, he was in the Field Mice, the beloved jangle-pop outfit signed to Sarah Records. When they fell apart, Wratten and his girlfriend and bandmate, Annemari Davies, formed Northern Picture Library, and continued to write rather melancholic songs, but with a certain duskiness and lonely chill rather than the peppy twitchiness and innocent twinkle from before. (Their first LP, Alaska, is very good.)

Northern Picture Library ended when Wratten and Davies split, and thus Trembling Blue Stars was born. (I see your breakup album and raise you a breakup band!)

The first album, Her Handwriting, is a monument for the forlorn, the devastated, sometimes in an uncomfortable way. Admittedly, many of the musicians from this era, from this general grouping, were rather downcast, dark, and meek, but what Wratten made stands apart, perhaps because it's boldly... adult, not concerned with obscuring its vulnerability. And he seemed keen to revel in his smooth craftsmanship, his adept songwriting. There's a maturity, conflicted, pained as it is, that beckons through a confident voice and a tender humanity. I find these records moving, particularly with songs like "The Rainbow," a sweet trip-hop song that poignantly features—and celebrates—Davies.