Lost in the Trees’ Ari Picker turns tragedy into triumph on second LP.
The year before releasing the band’s debut on Anti- Records, Lost in the Trees‘ frontman, Ari Picker, experienced a severe loss when his mother took her own life. Though not always advisable, there are occasions when considering the inspiration for a record is as important as any other factor involved. In the case of Lost in the Trees’ sophomore album, A Church That Fits Our Needs, it is impossible to separate a son’s grief from the work of art it has created.
More than being just a celebration of a life, the North Carolina native also seeks to embody his mother’s artistic spirit after her death. Heaven being as it is (difficult to comprehend or perceive), for Picker the concept is too elusive to be the place for the beloved soul to have ended up. Instead, that creative, at times troubled soul has been transported into 12 fluid and ambitious songs that avoid being overly somber and demand a committed listen.
As a band comprised of a lead violin, cello, tuba, and French horn and unafraid to enlist full orchestral backing, Lost In The Trees is musically well suited to tackle the lofty themes raised on Church. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Picker’s contemporary compositions are accomplished enough to capture to soaring and sinking emotions of the record. On tracks like “Red” and “Tall Ceilings,” the orchestration is at its most watery and direct. “Tall Ceilings” in particular resembles some of the softer moments of Radiohead’s seminal, OK Computer. Other songs build from understated beginnings to open outpourings of emotion. “This Dead Bird is Beautiful” receives one of Picker’s strongest vocal performances before its strings and horns swirl and march skyward and leave him behind.
Vocally, Picker’s style resembles that of Ra Ra Riot’s Wes Miles and, therefore, sounds at home alongside an abundance of strings. French Horn player Emma Nadeau joins in the singing occasionally. On another album, one might consider there to be a need to hear more of a voice other than Picker’s. The songs on Church, however, are so intensely personal that it becomes evident that the creator of this record needed complete control of its message. When Picker sings lines “Icy river put your arms around my mother / I burned her body in the furnace / until all that was left was her glory,” all one can really feel is admiration and appreciation of an artist who has let his audience as close to his heart as possible.
Despite its morbid subject matter, this record’s finest achievements are to avoid preachiness in favor of personal connections and steer clear of sadness in favor of celebration. There is an underlying positivity to the album that is evident in Picker’s entire approach to making music (see YouTube video). It is true that a certain level of commitment is required on the part of the listener in order to delve fully into any album that deals with loss so openly. A Church That Fits Our Needs asks politely for our undivided attention. Weather the mood for self-reflective contemplation strikes immediately or creeps up with some significant personal event in-tow, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more fitting soundtrack for it than Lost in the Trees latest album.