Strand of Oaks won’t leave a trail of dead behind them, but with Leave Ruin, the Wilkes-Barre, Penn., act sings of a life ravaged by love and sex. The project of Timothy Showalter (no relation to Michael, I assume), with assistance from Rawkblog favorites Lewis & Clarke (whose label, La Societe Expeditionniare, has released this album), Strand of Oaks’ lovingly arranged folk is apocalyptic only in spirit. Like Lewis & Clarke’s fantastic Blasts of Holy Birth and Bare Bones and Branches, Showalter’s tuneful tracks are built of beautiful, guitar-damaged arrangements not unlike Iron & Wine or Califone’s recent releases.
As a singer, though, Showalter’s impassioned pleas carry none of those bands’ distanced breathiness; his vocals spring forth mournfully in songs such as “Sister Evangeline,” where he sings a priest’s lament of being “pledged toward celibacy” while the desired nun in question “won’t talk to me.” Much of the album rests of the physical side of relationships: “Touching her back, I don’t feel like sleep,” he sings on “End in Flames,” while on album centerpiece “New Paris,” he thunders, “I told you not to talk / when I’ve got neeeeeeds.” So Showalter’s narratives have left some darkness behind them after all, if not a path of complete destruction. The album’s title track, ironically enough, is a solo acoustic lament that eschews the amps of the album’s more aptly Ruin-ready songs. “I guarantee all the people I meet / would’ve seen a much better side of me if I’d gotten some sleep,” he sings wryly. A night’s rest is likely the least of his worries, but it does sound fine.
Strand of Oaks – “End in Flames”: mp3
(Leave Ruin is out now on La Societe Expeditionniare)
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