Truth be told, prior to this year, I haven’t really paid a whole lot of attention to Strand of Oaks, the solo project of Philadelphia via Indiana’s Timothy Showalter. The first three records of Strand of Oaks started out as Showalter dabbling in confessional acoustic folk – pretty typical fare and expected, especially from a band named Strand of Oaks. As I said, I didn’t really give those early albums much of a chance.
But that all changed with Strand of Oaks‘ fourth and newest record – the incredible supercharged HEAL. With HEAL, Showalter abandons any pretense of being just a single acoustic outfit. Yes, there are elements of folk in it, but HEAL owes more of its influences to the dramatic upbringings of one of Showalter’s favorite bands – The Smashing Pumpkins. The songs in HEAL are soaring and anthemic, held up by a barrage of crunching guitars (one of which is guitar maestro J Mascis, who plays in the lead track Goshen ’97). Yes, HEAL finds Showalter in his normal confessional mode – angry and lashing out. But his confessions feels all the more real and stronger in HEAL amidst the swell of the music.
HEAL is the breakout record that expands the reach of Showalter’s songwriting. It actually forced me to see Showalter’s older songs in a new light. That’s how good it is. It channels powerful, life-affirming emotions within the listeners and is one of the better records out this year. One of my favorites. I am paying attention now, Strands of Oak.
Watch the video for the J Mascis-assisted Goshen ’97 embedded below.
Strand of Oaks – Heal comes out 6/24 via Dead Oceans (order here)