(Photo Credit: Alysse Gafkajen)
We had the opportunity to get advance access to the new Strand of Oaks record Eraserland! It's due out on March 22 on Dead Oceans. It features members of My Morning Jacket, Amanda Shires, and Jason Isbell. What follows is our track by track analysis of the new record and some other important information on Strand of Oaks including upcoming tour dates. Special thanks to Meg Helsel at Grandstand Media for hooking us up!
Strand of Oaks - Eraserland
Strand of Oaks' (i.e. Timothy Showalter) new album Eraserland begins with "Weird Ways" one of the first singles from the album. It starts as an acoustically centered song with Showalter's vocals taking taking center stage. However, as the track shifts, the electric guitars soon join in and it evokes comps to Ryan Adams. It features an absolutely beautiful melodic breakdown that leads into a ripping guitar solo. As far as starts to an album go, it doesn't get much stronger than this. "Hyperspace Blues" follows and comes right out the gate with percussion and over-driven guitar. Showalter's vocals here feature plenty of reverb, but they are strong and dance in the realm between alt-country and alt-rock. One steady part throughout this track is the drums, they hold the rhythm. We also get the use of synth in this song which might seem like an interesting choice given what I have described, but it works. "Hyperspace Blues" toes the line between rock and surreal and it does it magnificently.
"Keys" is another previously released single that is slower in rhythm. Lyrically, Showalter tangles with themes of love and loss. Musically (and perhaps thematically), this is a sad song that one could hear playing on the jukebox in a lonely bar somewhere while the patrons drown their sorrows. But its really quite a beautiful track overall. With "Visions" we are given another slower-paced track that features prominent percussion and guitar work. Showalter's vocals combined with the heavy guitar riffs in this track heavily comp to My Morning Jacket/Jim James. Even the highs he holds here. Lyrically, we border on the surreal again here with "Visions".
"Final Fires" is another melodic alt-rock song in that comps to Ryan Adams. The vocal harmonies are fantastic and pure on the hooks. Overall, this song is lighter fare than the other offerings thus far, as it's more of a feel-good tune, at least musically. In "Moon Landing", Showalter stylistically reminds us of The Rolling Stones a bit, the way his vocals play above the music. There is some fantastic guitar work in this tune that while explosive are restrained simultaneously.
"Ruby" was another of the previously released singles from the album. Lyrically, "Ruby" is another song that deals with love. The notion of love moving fast seems to be present here, being swept up in love. Musically, this feels alt-rock or alt-country again and the sound is just great. "Ruby" is definitely a toe-tapper. "Wild and Willing" sits firmly in the alt-country genre, with Showalter and an acoustic guitar holding court. Stylistically, the melody evokes memories of an old Springsteen song. It's stripped down and raw and that's what's great about it.
The title track "Eraserland"features harmonized vocals that remind me of Fleet Foxes. The percussion on this track is magnificently prominent. The use of synth here is again surprising but it works, especially when combined with the effects-driven guitar. Most of the track is instrumental because of a prolonged breakdown and it's downright beautiful. When Showalter joins again on vocals, the combination of all the music with his vocals might just be the single most beautiful piece of music on the album. "Forever Chords" is the magnum opus of this album. A nine minute track that features an easy going melody that pairs well with Showalter's vocals. The melody in this one reminds me of a Pink Floyd track from Dark Side of the Moon. There is also some great piano present in the track as the song shifts in it's movements. The song finishes with some great instrumentals and fades away into the darkness.
Overall Thoughts - There is a diverse range of sound on Eraserland. From many alt-country feeling songs, to those that blend alt-rock and more surreal/psychedelic tropes. There are a couple of stars on this album, Showalter's vocals are downright outstanding as he ranges from more feel-good rock songs to belting psychedelic tracks that evoke comps to Jim James. His range is undeniable and he uses it effectively here. This album still feels like it has a theme even though there is a lot of shifting from track to track. Some of my favorites from the album included "Weird Ways", "Hyperspace Blues", and "Final Fires". With all that in mind, Strand of Oaks sixth studio album is a strong one and should be on your shopping list.
Rating - 4/5
Upcoming Tour Dates:
4/10 - FM Kirby Center - Wilkes-Barre, PA
4/11 - U Street Music Hall - Washington, D.C.
4/12 - Motorco Music Hall - Durham, NC
4/13 - The Earl - Atlanta, GA
4/14 - Saturn - Birmingham, AL
4/16 - Antone’s - Austin, TX
4/17 - Three Links - Dallas, TX
4/19 - Meow Wolf - Santa Fe, NM
4/20 - Valley Bar - Phoenix, AZ
4/22 - Teragram Ballroom - Los Angeles, CA
4/23 - The Independent - San Francisco, CA
4/25 - Mississippi Studios - Portland, OR
4/26 - Neumos - Seattle, WA
4/27 - Biltmore Cabaret - Vancouver, BC
4/28 - The Bartlett - Spokane, WA
5/1 - Turf Club - Minneapolis, MN
5/2 - High Noon Saloon - Madison, WI
5/3 - Lincoln Hall - Chicago, IL
5/4 - The Hi-Fi - Indianapolis, IN
5/6 - Beachland Tavern - Cleveland, OH
5/7 - Club Cafe - Pittsburgh, PA
5/8 - Sinclair - Boston, MA
5/9 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY
5/10 - Union Transfer - Philadelphia, PA
5/24 - Privatclub - Berlin, GERMANY
5/25 - TivoliVredenburg - Utrecht, AMSTERDAM
5/26 - TRIX - Antwerp, BELGIUM
5/27 - Omeara - London, UK