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Thursday July 31st 2014

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Ears & Fingers 6/26/14

by Jason Leger

Strand of Oaks-HEAL
Sometimes in life, you meet someone and from the very second of introduction, you get the feeling this person is going to play some significant role in your life from that point on. This is something I’ve felt several times in my life, and for the most part I was right. This is also an attachment I have been known to have with works of art. The first time I read “The Catcher in the Rye,” I was hooked within the opening chapter, and within the first few minutes of “The Tree of Life,” I was already caught up in sensation. When I put on Timothy Showalter’s Strand of Oaks project’s fourth album, “HEAL,” for the first time, it felt very familiar, like something I had been listening to for years or something written by a friend. The immediate connection I shared with the record was remarkable.

Showalter has been in deep valleys and on high peaks in his personal life across the span of four albums under the name Strand of Oaks. He has seen love come and go, experienced poverty and homelessness, and felt the sting of loss. The release of “HEAL” finds Showalter at a place of deep self-reflection that leads at times to peace, at times to regret and at times to embattled acceptance. Tracks like opener “Goshen ‘97” and “Shut In” revolve around wistful images of the past that made Showalter into who he is today, all on top of searing guitar licks, which the nearly legendary J. Mascis provides on the former. Elsewhere on the album, tracks like “For Me” and the title track deal with honest regret. The album’s centerpiece is “JM,” Showalter’s touching, slow-burning tribute to the late Jason Molina of Magnolia Electric Co. and Songs: Ohia who passed away last year. In this song, even those unfamiliar with Molina’s work (which I strongly recommend rectifying) are painted a picture of how he touched lives.

Showalter has always been very emotionally connective with his albums, but “HEAL” is without a doubt his most accessible and well-rounded. “HEAL” is out now via Dead Oceans.

If You Haven’t Heard: How to Dress Well
There are plenty of times where Pitchfork will give an artist tons of exposure and award their work the coveted “Best New Music” honor, and I just can’t bring myself to listen to it. I don’t have anything innately opposed to Pitchfork’s point of view or the artist themselves, it just kind of turns me off. Tom Krell’s brainchild How to Dress Well was almost one of those bands. As the release of his new album “What is this Heart?” was drawing nearer, there seemed to be an article about him popping up in my Facebook feed daily. Finally, I succumbed and gave it a spin, and in all honesty, every bit of the hype is due. Raw, emotive, personal, and at times devastatingly honest pop and R&B have become Krell’s forte across the span of the past five years. With his third LP making waves, now is the time to get on board. “What is this Heart?” is out now via Domino Records.

Track of the Week: White Lung-Down it Goes
White Lung’s third album, “Deep Fantasy,” continues to impress with each released single. “Down it Goes” exudes the “chaos is king” ethos, replete with breakneck composition and one of the most confident front-women in the business, which has made this band one to watch in 2014. Check this track out online or pickup “Deep Fantasy,” which is out now via Domino Records.