Review Summary: Lost in the Trees cut their ties, sacrificing the tangible for the ethereal.
Lost in the Trees have flown under the radar for so long that it was only a matter of time before they made a statement album. For so many bands, this is synonymous with “selling out”, which in the 2014 indie scene essentially means incorporating more hey hey
’s and exchanging instrumental creativity for sleek and trendy production gimmicks. However, The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons can breathe a sigh of relief, as it is pretty safe to say that Past Life
won’t be sneaking up on their chart-topping records anytime soon. Lost in the Trees appear to have selected a more suitable path: one that focuses on lyrical depth and music that speaks for itself. The result is a predictably stunning work that is packed with several unexpected
twists in style.
is a fitting counterpart to the band’s classical-leaning, highly orchestral background. Whereas past works would crescendo and crash like waves, the band’s most recent output is far less dramatic. It prefers to float, buoyant amongst a minimal yet dazzling alt-indie soundscape that resonates as nothing less than a wholly natural progression. It may not hit as hard or as fast as All Alone In An Empty House
or A Church That Fits Our Needs
, but its purpose is not to pack an emotional gut punch nearly as much as it is to lure you – deeper and deeper into thought. Thanks to an intriguingly raw instrumental atmosphere, it largely succeeds.
The majority of Past Life
sounds like it was recorded in an empty cathedral. The omnipresent classical piano and perfectly harmonized vocals drive each song’s progression, giving them a mystical feel that perfectly complements Lost in the Trees’ already existing folk tendencies. ‘Wake’ is the premier example, anchored by ice-tinged bursts of piano that are both enigmatic and oddly fitting. The fact that this song (like so many others) is driven by a few random piano jingles illustrates just how full
an artist can make his/her sound without really doing much at all. Lost in the Trees say as much with their deliberate silence as they do with their words and music – a difficult line to toe, but one that benefits the raw, emotional impact of the album. Past Life
is a very instinctive listen; one that allows you to attach your own meaning to each desolate, under-produced moment.
Aside from the less is more
mentality that the band approached the studio with, Past Life
is – for the most part – just Lost in the Trees continuing to excel at what they do best. The stylistic shift away from orchestrated sections only serves to further highlight Picker’s soaring vocals and magnificent lyrical passages. It is clear that he has freed up his range and grown even more confident, gliding seamlessly between verses and choruses while the band responds. It’s all so dynamic and fresh, especially on gems such as ‘Lady in White’, a track that evokes Peter Silberman’s level of flawless vocal adaptation. Although most of the album effortlessly drifts along like mist rolling over a hill, there are still occasional peaks worth noting. The title track, ‘Past Life’, is the first such instance. Even though it doesn’t incorporate anything that would qualify as over the top, the crystal clear acoustic guitars and transcendent vocals elevate it among the band’s most memorable songs. ‘Glass Harp’ bubbles underneath the surface with its elegantly rolling piano notes, and eventually swells with the grandeur of backing strings and angelic falsetto. Then there’s the way that ‘Upstairs’ brings everything back to the ground, digging its toes into an earthy-sounding acoustic folk number. For how consistent of an atmosphere Past Life
has to offer it still manages to boast quite a broad musical palette, which likens it to a work of art with several possible interpretations.
is an album that brings definitive change to the band’s sound. Some will miss the sharp twists and turns brought to the table by more down-to-earth tracks, like 2010’s ‘Walk Around The Lake’ – but Lost in the Trees seem willing to cut those ties, sacrificing the tangible for the ethereal. And to put it simply, the evolution is downright gorgeous. As Lost in the Trees continue to grow together, their chemistry will only become more impressive. To think that Past Life
is just the band opening to a blank page is enthralling, and it will be to the pleasure of listeners everywhere to see what they end up filling those pages with.