Strand of Oaks - Eraserland - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Strand of Oaks - Eraserland

by Jim Cunnar Rating:10 Release Date:2019-03-22
Strand of Oaks - Eraserland
Strand of Oaks - Eraserland

Timothy Showalter, the brains and brawn behind Strand of Oaks, has had an amazing last few years.  In 2014, he released his fourth album HEAL to much critical acclaim, after a car accident which left him seriously injured.  Follow up Hard Love, and it’s B-side companion Harder Love, continued his strong run with appearances on the late-night television circuit in America.  His latest endeavor, Eraserland, rides this momentum, being hands-down his best work to date; an engaging, thoughtful, vulnerable piece which is going to be one of the highlights of 2019. 

Eraserland finds Showalter pulling from what seems to be all of his influences with assistance from members of My Morning Jacket and producer-engineer Kevin Ratterman.  Opener and first single “Weird Ways” is one of best songs of the year, with Showalter instantly engaging the listener with the lyric “I, I don’t feel it anymore.  Somehow, I see clearer than before”.  It is a perfect opening for this album, with gentle acoustic and steel pedal guitar leading the listener until 1:30 in, when the song blasts off.  In what may be one of my favorite lyrics of all time, Showalter sings “The more I burn, the less I have to show”, an epiphany of sorts which can only come from some serious self-inflection. 

“Hyperspace Blues” transitions a bit, going more electronic with a vibe that pulls from Echo and the Bunnymen and War-era U2. This is not a throw-back song, but rather a fantastic reimagining of a sound from an era past. This is followed by “Keys”, a song Showalter describes as a love letter to his wife Sue.  It’s just beautiful, an aching strummer where Showalter melts her heart with the line “Then train pulls up, there you are, the reason why I write my songs”. 

Wrapping up side A  is “Final Fires”, a three-minute piece of pop perfection. It’s a sing-along toe-tapping gem. “They always want the next one to be bigger” feels like it’s directed at every record label suit that has pressed an artist for a hit single. Then, Showalter shoves this massive song down their throats.

“Moon Landing” is full of distortion and menace, with Showalter’s delivery harkening back to The Waterboys' “The Whole Of The Moon”.  This is followed by “Ruby", a sixties-infused jangler about his childhood and formative years, a song which Showalter describes as the happiest he's ever written. 

Penultimate song “Eraserland” builds slowly and definitively into crashing distortion and Showalter repeating, almost under his breath, “I am in Eraserland, I can start again”.  It’s as if he’s trying to convince himself that life can really be reimagined and started anew.  That, to me, is about as hopeful as we can be.

Showalter said that he thought Strand of Oaks was finished until he got a text from his friend and fellow musician Carl Broemel that My Morning Jacket had booked some studio time to record songs.  Once he started writing, the songs came quickly and coalesced into what is now Eraserland, one of the best albums of 2019, a rare recording whose lyrics and music are perfectly fit and equally brilliant. 

It’s funny how when we loosen our grip and let things flow freely, the best usually happens.  Eraserland is proof of this.

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Brilliant album; great review. Good job Jim.

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