Scattered Trees – Sympathy
Record Label: Roll Call Records/EMI Records
Release Date: April 5, 2011
You’ve read The Perks of Being a Wallflower because you’re you and you’re here. It’s not exactly the most original book to discuss on a site that’s tagline is “Music Mends Broken Hearts.” Which means you are also familiar with the vignette where the touching narrator screams into the night sky, “I feel infinite!” Whether “feeling infinite” is a thing or not is debatable. There are probably times when we did in fact feel, you know, “forever.” But this belief only becomes reality when we are, in fact, “feeling infinite.” After all, it’s hard to believe in such optimism in a dentist’s chair or during a mid-term. But for those few, rare moments when everything is perfect, where everything unfolds just as it does in our imaginations, “Infinity” stops being abstract and becomes a character trait. “Infinity” is what we are at that perfect moment, which, sadly and ironically, never actually lasts forever.
And as I sit here, completely engulfed in Scattered Trees’ breathtaking, harmony-laden folk opus Sympathy, I once again understand what it’s like to be perfectly content with one’s situation. Who knows whether this is me “feeling infinite” or not. But regardless of all this faux-philosophy-cum-outdated-teen-novel, I am completely confident in the understated brilliance of Sympathy.
Penned after the death of lead singer Nate Eiesland’s father, this intricately crafted record brings to mind some of “soft rock’s” finest. “A Conversation About Death On New Year’s Eve” sounds like the best song on Stars’ The Five Ghosts. Standout “Five Minutes” channels Lydia’s Illuminate with its male/female exchanges and fulfilling build-ups. “I Swear To God” uses overt pop harmonies without feeling trite, while its synthesized bridge places a layer of polish over an otherwise rickety album. But even with similarities to existing acts, Scattered Trees create an emotional niche all their own. It’s something you’ve heard before, only never this good.
And yes, as you can guess from its somber inspiration, Sympathy isn’t all cartwheels and picnics. But even in the face of death, there is optimism in Eiseland’s songwriting that makes you want to listen regardless of mood. On “Five Minutes,” he sings, “I was lost / But I was free,” and it’s that sort of turn-it-on-its-head sentiment that makes this an anytime record. Sympathy is heavy without being crushing. Its meaningful yet conversational. And despite certainly being a moody folk record, Sympathy wears a surprising number of hats. On the eventually toe-tapping opener “Bury The Floors,” there is the line, “I wish you could see / You’re doing better than you think.” It’s delivered eloquently over low-pitched hums. And although mostly unassuming, a line like that is exactly what Sympathy is all about. We’re all doing fine. We’re all getting through. We are all better than we think. And maybe if we remember that simple idea, we can always feel infinite, too.
Recommended If You Like: Lydia, Stars, Her Sweet Autumn Misery, Freelance Whales maybe