Album Review

Lost in the Trees - Past Life

Released February 18, 2014
Chad W. Lutz
In an October 2013 interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Ari Picker of Lost in the Trees stated the band was looking to move away from previous sounds and "strip down" much of the music for the upcoming LP slated for February. "I want to create a world with as little as possible," he said, with "minimal aspects." The result is this past Tuesday's third, full-length release by Lost in the Trees in Past Life.

Lost in the Trees achieve exactly what they set out to accomplish with Past Life, whose sounds are bright and tinny but simple. At times the drums bounce and pulse, on such songs as the title track "Past Life" and "Lady in White", and at others vocal harmonies and piano-heavy melodies drive the tracks, most notably on "Night Walking" and the opening track "Excos". As the album begins, there's a sense that you've just walked through the doors of a megalith church, but there are guitars and drums and no one is going to be sacrificed to the giant Wicker Man on the hill.

Ethereal wails of choir and prophetic harmonies echoing off of ancient, stone walls aren't the only imaginative highlights of Past Life. The album continues themes presented in the band's 2012 release A Church That Fits Our Needs, which was written as an ode to Picker's mother, who committed suicide in 2008, around the time of the band's first release All Alone in an Empty House the same year.

Past Life appears to be an attempt to move on, both spiritually and professionally, for the band. The fourth track on the album, "Daunting Friend", boasts the lyrics, "I'm alive in your shadow…I let you slip away/You let me slip away/Forever in our hearts" solemn and honest, but that, "We'll float around the town." The seventh track, "Glass Harp", holds much of the same with the narrator stating, "It's not your fault/It's not your fault." You get the feeling there are maybe one or two emotions driving the pieces, instead of a mix match of parts like so many modern albums. Much of the lyrics featured in Past Life lend to lost loves but retain an element of hope reflected in the musical arrangements that make up for lack of thematic energy or palpable standout track.

The album moves quickly. As you listen, it's sometimes hard to distinguish one song from another. But what Past Life does well is hold the audience's attention. The simplified layering makes me the music accessible. There are traces of Enya, a stripped-down Postal Service, and an acoustic Radiohead at work here and maybe even a little Tears for Fears. It appears Lost in the Trees try to use the album as a way to make sense of both personal and professional dilemmas. Past Life has a heartwarming effect and keeps the listener tuned in. Credit is due for that. The product is whimsical and lovely.