Friday, July 18, 2014


THE SONG: "Shut In"
THE BAND: Strand of Oaks
THE LABEL: Dead Oceans

I’ve had the distinct privilege of attending college in a forest. I say this because Strand of Oaks will forever be inseparable from mornings, half-asleep stumbling headlong into cold, reluctant jogs on the forest trails. Stuffing Leave Ruin (Strand’s first album) into my ears is what kept me going. The album’s introspective folk rock turned out to be the ideal soundtrack.
Enter HEAL, Strand’s fourth album. The tracks here were dredged from a fevered songwriting binge (30 songs in three weeks) by frontperson, Tim Showalter after coming off tour. The content is more upbeat and rock-centric (compounded by the help of J Mascis on “Goshen ‘97”)– portraits and vignettes of life’s intimacies abound.
So let’s talk about this week’s track, “Shut In.” As the title alludes, we are met with lyrics that construct a sort of universal internal contest– “How much do I care and how much do I try?” When Showalter opens with, "I was born in the middle, maybe too late, everything good had already been made," he encapsulates the existential struggle of many of us Americans in our 20's and 30's, staring down the supposed banality of our generation, oft proclaimed by our elders -you know...the ones who invented rock 'n roll. At the same time, the chorus works as an uplifting mantra, forcing us onward, into activity. "We try in our own way to get better, even if we’re alone."
The tune is built upon the simple oscillation of two chords strumming consistently, with the induction of an icy synth organ in the second verse that gives us an almost Springsteen vibe (makes sense from Showalter – an unabashed fan of older dad-rock). What really gets me is the guitar solo that comes tearing in around the two-minute mark - distorted, incredibly loud, overpowering. It’s a riff with such sing-song predictability…you can’t help but latch on. I’m not saying it’s out of place…but it is a definite statement, and a mystifying one at that. The question is, why? You’ll listen to it again and again regardless.
ANYWAY, I’m done. Pick up HEAL HERE!

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