Critical Voices: Lost in the Trees, Past Life

February 20, 2014


Usually, when the worlds of classical and pop music converge, the disconnect between the two genres is apparent. The divide between them is a trap for aspiring artists attempting to reach glory. To create a nuanced and satisfying arrangement of the sounds requires a rare finesse and talent.

A split personality has never been a problem for Lost in the Trees, whose lead singer Ari Picker studied film scoring before he started a band. Previous albums have been notable for their unconventional instrumentation, containing full chamber ensembles alongside the traditional electric guitar, bass, and drums.

But the group’s most recent effort, Past Life, differs from the band’s previous works. The classical instrumentation that brought Lost in the Trees critical acclaim is gone, leaving behind a five-member group that, at first glance, seems like a shadow of the group’s former self. Fortunately, one listen to the new album completely alleviates any low expectations as Picker uses classical techniques, but this time, in the context of contemporary alternative rock.

Past Life is magnificent. Holistically, the album bears striking resemblances to a modern symphony, as each song feels like a movement in a larger piece. Various stylistic motifs, like the operatic lead singing of Emma Nadeau, recur throughout the record and create a silky-smooth texture. The ornamentations from the electric guitar establish the backdrop for Picker’s melodies to shine.

Picker’s voice is a highlight of Past Life, possessing a fine airiness, without being timid or underwhelming. It soars, framing the beautiful poetry in the lyrics on the record. “Your dreams caught heart, behind my eyes” Picker sings in “Glass Harp.” It is not entirely clear what he is singing about, but the images created are beautiful.

The song “Past Life” is a prime example of the culmination of these elements. The song begins with a chordal duet between Nadeau and the lead electric guitar that unfolds into a moving guitar line, which is joined by a piano that scores the rest of the song. Gentle ride cymbal hits are constant and on every beat in the chorus, adding to the rich, layered feel of the song. “We’ll crumble into flames” is heard in the final chorus before an electric guitar solo closes the song in glorious splendor.

Past Life brings back the abandoned classical sounds in a new way. If they continue going down this venture, the music will never lose its life.

Voice’s Choices: “Excos,” “Past Life”

Daniel Varghese
Daniel was an editor at the Voice from December 2013 to November 2016. He loved it. Follow him on Twitter @drvarg01 for his thoughts on Global Health and Kanye West.

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