The following review comes to us from guest blogger Peter Getty and was previously posted on his blog. Peter has a history in the music business that includes singing and songwriting as well as being the founder of the boutique record label Emperor Norton. More information about Peter can be found in the author credits at the bottom of this article.
When’s the last time you bought a rock album, lay down with the lyrics, and were moved? Check Google to see if there’s a record store still operating in your town and pick up Heal, the latest album from Strand of Oaks…because it just may be a masterpiece.
Tim Showalter is the musician behind the project, and has delivered in Heal a frighteningly emotional album, bare-souled and full of tremendous, joyous pain. Strand of Oaks has put out good tunes before, but something is markedly different here.
The album’s central themes of regret, alienation, and lost youth may have been sparked, at least in part, by musician Jason Molina. In the song “JM”, Showalter sings directly to the midwestern rockstar.
I was just an Indiana kid
Getting no one in my bed
But I had your sweet tunes to play
Molina died in 2013 due to extreme alcoholism. Showalter can’t seem to shake that dreadful truth, his homage laden
with dark, dead end memories. Even the guitars seem to be crumbling, and then crashing down, all around him.
The album serves as a memoir, with candid and relatable recounts of rocky relationships. This is negative nostalgia, stark and accessible. Even upbeat songs lack the optimism that could drive this album anywhere close to pop.
Lyrics are complex and unsettled. In “SHUT-IN”, Showalter is stuck in a solitary depression, almost with pride.
I ain’t talkin’ about money
I don’t wanna talk about love
I hate thinking’ I’m not the same as I was
I lose my faith in people
Why even take the time?
Musically, the album spans several rock sub-genres. “SHUT-IN” has moments that evoke Springsteen at his best. “WAIT FOR LOVE”, the album’s closer sounds like a Coldplay of an alternate universe, raw and evocative. Some moments are folksy Americana, and some approach classic heavy metal. A front-and-center synthesizer on “SAME EMOTION” conjures a retro 90′s vibe in the closing solo.
Long considered a folk act, Strand of Oaks may have just delivered the rock album of the year. One hopes that Showalter was able to experience catharsis after bringing it to the public with such urgency. He has here proven himself a capable songwriter and frontman, deserving of the attention of the rock world.
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