Strand of Oaks
“We’re… cosmic dust, pumping blood,” Tim Showalter of Strand of Oaks, sings with feeling on the song, “Horses at Night.” It is off his latest eleven song offering (and eighth album) titled, In Heaven, which came out today, October 1st, almost a year after recording. It is an album of epic proportions that explores the wonder that is earth and humanity (“I am just carbon / fueled by conscious / afraid to get killed”) and beyond (“This world’s not meant for me”). It is an album whose genesis was loss and transformation, with the death of those close to him, his recent decision to get sober, and his relocation to Austin, Texas.
The arrangements are stellar, the blues on steroids, that you expect from Strand of Oaks, and the content is at turns cathartic—tapping a nerve or voicing our grief/joy—and revelatory—putting into beautiful words what we only have pressing feelings about without proper expression. Until now. Showalter says about songwriting, “Music is magic and I feel like the luckiest person in the world that I’m allowed to share it.” And his music IS magical.
He has that Bruce Springsteen meets Flaming Lips feel that he’s always had. It is the first time since the critically acclaimed, HEAL, that he’s incorporated keyboards in his records and altogether the compositions are wonderful. “I wanted to strive for something greater than what I thought I was capable of,” Showalter says of the record, and it’s already getting comparisons to the 2014 album.
“Yeah, time means nothing if you can dream / Time is everything in between,” he sings on the marching “Sunbathers.” This is an album both in and out of time. It has the feel of millennia old observations, while it speaks to our condition as it is now in the twenty first century. Singing about Grenwich Village (and coke), “Sister Saturn, sister sun,” and a heaven where Jimi Hendrix and his recently deceased cat Stan can go to see shows together, “all the galaxy in view.”
It is ultimately a triumphant proclamation that life and earth and people are a great gift to be cherished and celebrated, despite the pain intrinsic in life. “I need human beings,” he sings on “Slipstream.” (And we need Strand of Oaks and purifying music like his.) And hints at his belief that life continues on on its beautiful course after we’re done. That’s his (and many people’s) hope, anyways. But we don’t know yet, we’re still “Under Heaven,” the albums closer, which says, “You and me / delusionally / we rise and fall.” Whether it’s delusional or not, to strive for greatness, it creates meaning in a world that can often seem cruel and meaningless. And I’m thankful for Showalter’s efforts, and this beautiful creation.
Order In Heaven by Strand of Oaks HERE