“Heal” off Shut In
Fans of Strand of Oaks — a solo project of Philadelphia’s Tim Showalter — will have heard something at work on 2012’s great album, Dark Shores, that showed tremendous growth and diversification from 2010’s Popedragon. The dark and relatively upbeat style of acoustic music on Dark Shores also promised that Showalter is a songwriter worth keeping an eye on, and a musician stumbling towards something remarkable, and Shut In delivered, tenfold.
He’s an original songwriter, and the craftsmanship and mood in the best songs off his last album left an impression that if he worked with the right producer, they’d come up with something truly fresh and distinct. Which is exactly what Shut In is. Showalter’s swapped the acoustic for an electronic, the drumkit for its electronic cousin, and he added a bed of brooding synth. And it’s golden.
To call this album experimental isn’t quite right, as it feels like a very natural step in a new direction that has — with no discernable hiccups or filler songs — created a brand new sound that melds together the finer elements of all the genres of music that have been so popular these last few years.
As the album title would imply, this record is the result of a cathartic flurry of introspection and songwriting; Showalter wrote 30 songs in three weeks after he’d come off a two-year tour, unravelled by a failing marriage, dissatisfaction with the album he was touring, and other personal issues.
As promised by the press release, “Heal embodies that feeling of catharsis and rebirth, desperation and euphoria, confusion and clarity. It is deeply personal and unwittingly anthemic.” Also: he almost died during the mixing of he album. Showalter and his wife were on the freeway on Christmas day, and were involved in a car accident with a semi-truck. Showalter suffered a head trauma that was more severe than he’d realized.
Fearing delays in the album’s release, he didn’t let his album producer know. “Being on the verge of death, and my thoughts being so closely tied to that, changed the album’s direction. Together, we pushed it toward a much more cathartic sound that forces the listener to where I was at that exact moment, somewhere between almost dying and being absolutely fearless.”
One track, “JM,” is presumably about another person’s recent death: Jason Molina (recently deceased founder of Songs:Ohia / Magnolia Electric Co.). It starts out with moody, slow-drag guitar reminiscent of Molina, and the lines, “I was an Indiana kid, getting old in my bed. I had your sweet tunes to play.” The song builds to blow up in the controlled, arresting way Showalter’s gotten so good at; his songs hit you and grab you and move you like a proper song ought to do.
The album will be available June 24th.