(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, April 22, 2011

CD review - The Lonely Forest, Arrows (2011)

The Lonely Forest has followed up on last years self-titled EP (review here) with their new full length CD, Arrows. A couple of the songs were carryovers from the EP (alas, not my favorite track, Let It Go), but there's plenty of new material to explore.

Arrows picks up where The Lonely Forest EP left off. The clear, earnest vocals and interesting flavor of indie rock provide continuity. The band still shows a lot of the REM influence they shared on I Don't Want to Live There, which was one of the carryover songs. But they expand on that to offer glimpses of Dada, Dramarama, and others. In this longer format, John Van Deusen's vocals picked up a David Lowery vibe (Cracker), but the music still adds some interesting twists and turns that reflect the Lonely Forest's unique sound.

It's a strong collection of songs. I really liked the matched pair, (I am) the Love Skeptic and (I am) the Love Addict. The former has a Dramarama power pop edge, laying out its cynical message. The latter is an upbeat indie pop track. The steady slap beat of the drums carries the song forward. By the second verse, they've pulled in a Blues Traveler looseness. On the surface, it's simple but infectious. A closer listen reveals the subtlety: the chord changes are simple but the shifting song sections, cool dynamics, and surprising lyrical depth take the song to another level.

Tunnels is the closest that Arrows comes to the Trail of Dead progressive sound they showed briefly on Let It Go. The echoed intro sets up an interesting set of changes, that powers up nicely. The build throughout the track is great, letting the bass do much of the heavy lifting. It doesn't stray as far afield as Let It Go, but it shows that the Lonely Forest can shift their sound beyond their indie rock foundation.

The standout track, Two Notes and a Beat, is another one that stretches their sound. It has a groove somewhere between Joy Division and U2. The staccato guitar chop and vocals set up the former, but the soaring chime of chorused guitar is firmly based in the Edge's style. The relaxed flow of the song balances the choppy music nicely. The lyrics are simple and repetitive, but they're still satisfying:
All I really need is two notes and a beat
To sing to you my heart,
It's a great way to start
The music gives the appropriate meta backing to these words. The song hits at what I like most about the Lonely Forest: well planned music that feels loose and supports a sincere and clear lyrical message. It's like a well-made cider, which is nothing more than apple juice...but it's juice that's been tempered and clarified by fermentation to reveal the depth of its origins.

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