Lost In The Trees
A Church That Fits Our Needs


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
April 3rd, 2012 | 55 replies | 11,779 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The heart strains.

While still an album obsessed with death and what may come after, A Church That Fits Our Needs is strangely hopeful even while it relates to the deepest parts of grief, a contemplation of past and present rather than a tear-stained farewell. Frontman and main creative force Ari Picker wrote this after his cancer-stricken mother killed herself shortly after his wedding in 2009, and, yes, A Church That Fits Our Needs is a hard listen. But it’s a triumphant one, celebrating the muse on the cover as often as it mourns her passing. Picker has stated that he wanted to provide his mother, an artist, “a space, in the music, to be, and to become all the things she didn’t get a chance to be when she was alive.” It’s less a funeral march than a memorial, finally arriving at the lush intersection of folk, pop and classical music that Picker has been threatening to master for years. Stuck in a sort of creative stasis with the release and re-release of his debut EP and LP over the past few years, perhaps it was this life changing event that was what Picker really needed to discover himself as his own artist. A Church That Fits Our Needs realizes all the potential that All Alone In An Empty House promised, and Picker, a Berklee College of Music graduate whose first orchestral work was for the North Carolina Symphony, melds all the various threads of his influences into a cohesive, heartbreaking whole.

There’s shades of the loss that permeated Arcade Fire’s Funeral here, a tinge of Radiohead’s chilly baroque arrangements, and the kind of orchestral finessing that Jonsi could appreciate; there’s also a heavy Stravinsky influence and the sweeping cinematic quality of film scorers like Nino Rota. In Picker’s arrangements, though, there’s a distinctly American quality – the sound of rushing rivers, the hushed crack of leaves in a wintry forest. The gentle finger picking and dramatic strings paint a chromatic, vivid picture in songs like the stately, melancholy “Icy River,” where Picker’s crystal clear tenor completes everything: “Icy river / put your arms around my mother / I burned her body in the furnace / till all that’s left was her glory.” Picker’s lyrics dabble in the crushingly intimate as well as the darkly fantastical – veiled lyrics about dead birds and golden eyelids, with nature imagery and archetypal discussions about heart and the hereafter predominating. It’s a soundscape that seems to revel in life rather than death, and it’s this verve and melodic enthusiasm that prevents A Church That Fits Our Needs from becoming a one-note lamentation.

Though it’s Picker’s lyrics that provide the emotional punch, it’s his superb technical skills that make A Church That Fits Our Needs so much more than a simple outpouring of grief. Picker enjoys playing around with meter, and his complex use of strings and use of fellow vocalist Emma Nadeau’s airy whisper dabbles in dissonance but always somehow manages to return to a resolving major lift. “As you close your eyes from the water / a golden light wanders with the birds / where have you been, what have you seen / all the peace when you come following / I’ll tell you it’s worth it all,” Picker sings on “Golden Eyelids,” and there’s the major key surge, an optimistic murmur, but there’s also a hidden tension in the taut, haunting strings that threaten in the background, swirling up in a gusty ostinato. For much of The Church That Fits Our Needs, there’s that struggle to find peace, to reconcile the lessons and traits he’s inherited from his mother with her untimely, senseless death. “My song can try / but there are things that songs can’t say,” Picker sings with more than a touch of sad finality on the closing lines of “Vines,” his voice close to breaking on the last couplet: “Am I hopeless? I trust you, but where are we walking to?”

It’s an appropriate theme for the record, where the loss of a loved one is not just something that can never be found again but is also an opportunity to reflect and cherish. It’s a theme that is also not necessarily resolved by the time “Vines” ends, although the harrowing gut-punch combo that is the tender ballad “This Dead Bird is Beautiful,” and the cleansing stomp of “Garden” comes closest. The former is the kind of bare acoustic piece that leaves no room for subtlety, Picker defiantly reminding himself that he’ll “always have her eyes,” while the latter picks up all the tense and pensive wonderings of the past eight songs and brings them crashing down in a cathartic wave of emotion, apocalyptic strings and percussion. It’s an exhausting listen, but what A Church That Fits Our Needs does so well is how it makes this loss palatable – the grief is real and heartfelt and sometimes overwhelming, but in its honesty and the warm instrumentation that Picker has mastered, it’s thoughtful and all too easy to get lost in. Even when there seems to be nothing left, there’s still simple beauty in life, Picker seems to say on “An Artist’s Song;” “So sing out your hymn of faith / cause I have none / your song is my armor.” It’s an odd sort of comfort, but it’s a comfort nonetheless, and if nothing else A Church That Fits Our Needs provides something to hang on to: memories. In that respect, it’s a fitting monument to Picker’s mother as she was, not how she ended, and it’s a touching, affirming milestone in his own career.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



7011 Comments


Really good review. That lyrical excerpt from "Icy River" was tempting and intriguing enough to make me want to give this a go. Never heard of this guy (guys?) before though, I have to say; (relatively) new artist?

Also I can't decide whether that person on the cover is a dude or a lady.

Digging: Pixies - Indie Cindy

taylormemer
April 3rd 2012



4887 Comments


It's obv a chick. C'mon dude.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



10001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's his mom irving haha. it's mostly picker and a revolving cast of musicians, this is his second proper album although the
first and an EP were reissued in 2010 (originally came out in 2008).

and if you like any of the recs you should definitely get this

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



7011 Comments


^ Sufjan Stevens Illinois
Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago


I'M DOWN.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



7011 Comments


it's his mom irving haha.

Also fuck I feel bad now =/

ares
April 3rd 2012



15 Comments


These guys/gals are from my town. 'Garden' is sick. Glad to see them here, they deserve to make it big.

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



7237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds great. Will give it a try.

AggravatedYeti
April 3rd 2012



7684 Comments


hhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Kiran
Emeritus
April 3rd 2012



5992 Comments


cooooooooooool

conesmoke
April 3rd 2012



4914 Comments


That person really isn't very attractive at all... wow.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



10001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

classy guys

deathofasalesman
April 3rd 2012



5743 Comments


Very classy. The "cancer-stricken mother [that] killed herself" is unattractive, like it matters.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



9491 Comments


LOL.

The comments above are hilarious, and what makes them so funny is that I thought the same thing. After familiarizing myself with the backstory here, though, it is really sad... :[

And I skimmed through your review, Rudy. I really like what I saw, and I'll read it extensively tonight.


Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

thebhoy
Emeritus
April 3rd 2012



4459 Comments


been meaning to get this I liked their last one


klap
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



10001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i have you to thank for this keels

defjaw83
April 3rd 2012



1763 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Awesome review Rudy, I'm d/ling as i write this.

Noticed this though:

Picker, a Berklee College of Music graduate whose has written first orchestral work was for the North Carolina Symphony


May want to sort that out but apart from that it was a great read man. Hope this is as good as it sounds.

Digging: Bonobo - The North Borders

defjaw83
April 3rd 2012



1763 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

And what the fuck does it matter if she's attractive guys. I mean, I'm guessing you're like 12 or something but still

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



48551 Comments


That album cover is creepy

Digging: The Hotelier - Home, Like NoPlace Is There

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



10001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks defjaw

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
April 3rd 2012



7237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I found this disappointing on first listen. I'll be sure to give it a few more tries though.



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