Review Rewind: Racetrack-City Lights

1,405. that’s how many local recordings have been reviewed in What’s Up! over the last 15 years. Some good, some not so good, all offering something to the local scene and in these pages. A review was and will always be a band’s chance to get some press and show folks what they are doing. If a band lives around here, or on a local label, we review it and have never turned anyone away if they met one of those qualifications. Among the recordings reviewed, a few really stood out for one reason or another – it might have been how good it was or the impact it had on the scene or the statement at that time. This issue, we re-reviewed 15 of our favorite records over the last 15 years (and included a blurb from the original review) and talked not just about the music, but why the recording is important in the music scene’s history. Every one of these recordings should be on your iTunes, find ‘em, listen to ‘em, love ‘em. We do.



October 2004: “Hypothesizing aside, the fact remains that City Lights is one of the most potent and well-executed offerings from any band in any genre, that Bellingham has seen in quite some time.” –Kasey Anderson  


Growing up in the county, the only exposure I had to local music came from trips to the Rome Grange, the occasional all ages show, and mix cds from my friend Graham. Since any shows I went to when I was 17 were typically about being seen rather than seeing the show, those cds were the most direct route to my heart and head. That said, I still remember the first time I heard “Fingertips” off of Racktrack’s first full length album City Lights. The song made me feel like I was a part of a conversation (the Midwest! The Twin Cities! Getting or not getting into college!), and after being inundated with the impossible vocal ranges of top-40 pop stars, Racetrack’s songs were in a key I could sing to. The hooks were catchy enough to keep my attention, the guitar just distorted enough to make me feel superior to all of my pretty pop loving peers.

Suburban angst aside, returning to this album some nine years later is refreshing. I don’t think Meghan Kessinger could write a song I wouldn’t want to sing along to. It reminds me that there is a difference between an album that sounds clean and one that sounds overproduced. Every moment on this record feels absolutely necessary, which is probably why I find myself returning to it again and again. And while much of my music education has revolved around people telling me who other bands really sound like (have you heard of That Dog?), to me, only Racetrack sounds like Racetrack.

–Jessica Lohafer