Strand Of Oaks
702 Willow Ave
Ithaca, NY, 14850
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 18 and over
Watch & Listen
Strand Of Oaks
Hard Love, Tim Showalter’s latest release as Strand of Oaks, is a record that explores the balancing act between overindulgence and accountability. Recounting Showalter’s decadent tour experiences, his struggling marriage, and the near death of his younger brother, Hard Love emanates an unabashed, raw, and manic energy that embodies both the songs and the songwriter behind them. “For me, there are always two forces at work: the side that’s constantly on the hunt for the perfect song, and the side that’s naked in the desert screaming at the moon. It’s about finding a place where neither side is compromised, only elevated.”
During some much-needed downtime following the release of his previous album, HEAL, Showalter began writing Hard Love and found himself in a now familiar pattern of tour exhaustion, chemically-induced flashbacks, and ongoing domestic turmoil. Drawing from his love of Creation Records, Trojan dub compilations, and Jane’s Addiction, and informed by a particularly wild time at Australia’s Boogie Festival, he sought to create a record that would merge all of these influences while evoking something new and visceral. Showalter’s first attempt at recording the album led to an unsatisfying result—a fully recorded version of Hard Love that didn’t fully achieve the ambitious sounds he heard in his head. He realized that his vision for the album demanded collaboration, and enlisted producer Nicolas Vernhes, who helped push him into making the most fearless album of his career.
Throughout the recording process, both Showalter and Vernhes maintained an environment that paired musical experimentation with a mindset that defied Showalter’s previous studio endeavors: the atmosphere had to be loose, a celebration of the creative process and a reinforcement of the record’s core themes. “In a time of calculation and overthinking, I wanted to bring back the raw, impulsive nature that is the DNA of so many records I love.” And in keeping with that loose, hedonistic vibe that encompasses so much of Hard Love, Showalter looked to his best friend, Jason Anderson, whose musical prowess and expert shredding augmented the unrelenting energy that would become the record’s backbone.
This uninhibited and collaborative studio experience led to the most dynamic album in Strand of Oaks discography, moving beyond Showalter’s original concept for a singularly feel-good record to something more complex and real. For as much as Showalter wants this record to seem like a party, it’s more than that. It feels like living. “You went away…you went searching…came back tired of looking” is how Showalter begins the title track, a sentiment that epitomizes Showalter’s own mentality in beginning Hard Love. And as the record progresses, so do the themes of dissatisfaction and frustration with love, and family, and success, and aging, both in personal experience and songwriting.
“Radio Kids,” Showalter’s infectious, synth-driven ode to youth and a time when music represented something pure and uncomplicated, perfectly encapsulates his desire for escapism from both his adult responsibilities and a world he no longer recognizes. But if there’s a sun in the Hard Love solar system, it’s “On the Hill,” a psychedelic, celebratory homage to three days in the excesses of that mind-altering Boogie Festival. “On the Hill” captures the true zeitgeist of how Showalter wants this record to feel. “It’s like I had to fly across the world to find out who I was…it was all about getting loose, and connecting with people on a primordial level…letting go of all the bad things, losing your inhibitions, and figuring out what it means to be alive.” The accumulating intensity that Showalter crafts throughout this flagship track seems to effortlessly achieve an almost hallucinogenic ambiance, with images of lighters being lifted, concert-goers embracing, and the magnitude of the moment eliciting nothing less than mass euphoria.
And then, there’s “Cry.”
“Eventually there’s this crushing reality of what it means to hurt someone, what you did to hurt someone…you’re not the victim anymore, it’s not romantic, it’s not a narrative…you just realize you’re the cause of problems.” This noticeable shift in the tone of Hard Love—a heartbreaking, piano-laden ballad with the chorus “Hey…you’re making me cry”—is a sobering reality check in Showalter’s universe. And as Showalter struggles to reconcile his youthful desires with the realities of adulthood, we’re eventually led into the final death rattle of his pervasive partying, “Rest of It.” With its loud, raucous arrangement of singalong vocals and searing guitars solos, “Rest of It” emerges as Hard Love’s flawless manifestation of an exceedingly fun, belligerently drunk night where you try to forego life’s responsibilities and have one more good time.
Much of Hard Love was either written or conceptualized during Showalter’s post-tour break, as he reveled in the memory of what he considered to be life-changing experiences. But it was during this period that he received devastating news: his younger brother, Jon, had suffered massive cardiac failure. “He was 27 years old at the time…it happened out of nowhere. I flew out [to Indiana] and stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks. They said he had a 10% chance of surviving and they had to induce a coma to prevent brain damage. Sometimes he would start to wake up and look me in the eyes…it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But he got better. That’s all that matters.” In so many ways, it only seems fitting that Showalter’s psychedelic journey, his awakening to drug-fueled excess, the loss of inhibitions, the inevitable reality check, and his subsequent last hurrah be capped with his darkest, most life-affirming experience yet. The title of the record’s final track, “Taking Acid and Talking With my Brother,” represents Showalter’s last-ditch attempt at reconciling his personal life and his impulsions, crafting a clear connection between what were previously considered trippy experiences and the now extraordinary surrealism of witnessing his younger brother’s medical emergency.
And as Hard Love comes to its conclusion, it becomes that much more obvious that the singer/songwriter has grown to something larger and more momentous, crafting a passionate, brazen, and fully realized rock and roll record that captures the escapism of sex and drugs while offering an equally sincere perspective on the responsibilities, complications, and traumas that punctuate our lives and force us to evolve. “Some records are built like monuments, set in stone…I want this record to be burned in effigy, I want it to be burned in celebration of the limited time we have on this Earth.”
Louisville’s Twin Limb helpfully selfdescribe as “dream pop”— only in their variation, it’s a dream pop that combines the “pop” of Warhol’s Chelsea Girls with the jagged dream states of Surrealism. Disquieting, emotively loaded, boldly defined yet wide open to interpretation, Twin Limb’s newest, Haplo, out now on Suretone Records, is more like the musical equivalent of the paintings or automatic poetry of the early Surrealists. Its darker elements delivered with a markedly pop ease, Haplo is lustrous and immensely playonrepeatable, though everywhere filled with the pangs and rumbles of an unsettled subconscious.
Twin Limb originally consisted of Lacey Guthrie on accordion and keys and Maryliz Bender on percussion and guitar, with both singing evenly together in harmonies. They had met only once, at a party, before ever playing music together. Nevertheless, they immediately fell into a musical telepathy that you would sooner expect among siblings or lifelong friends. Songwriting came easy between the two, with their minds aligned and their voices joining in a soft symmetry over the drums and accordion. At times mistaken for an odd variety of folk because of the accordion and harmonies, Twin Limb only transformed into their fuller, current sound with the fortuitous addition of their guitarist Kevin Ratterman. Lacey and Maryliz had come to record at La La Land, Louisville’s wellknown hotbed of musical experimentalism and Ratterman’s studio, where he had made records for headliners like Ray Lamontagne, Andrew Bird, and Jim James and My Morning Jacket. Slightly daunted at first by such a roll call, they were thrilled when Kevin zeroed in and instinctively completed the spacious, oneiric mood that they had so long heard in their heads. With his guitarwork, ghostly array of noises, and prescient production talents filling out that vision, Kevin was happily conscripted as their newest member before the session was even through. Together, a onceearthier sound has turned otherworldly, catching ears in Kentucky and increasingly wider audiences, with an upcoming tour with Jim James as both his opening act and backup band.
Whether in the studio or on stage, Twin Limb always play facing each other, intently and intimately, as if mixing their tones together in a large cauldron at their center. Their instrumentation blends in large billows of melody, in which the listener can hardly distinguish a guitar from percussion or an accordion from a human voice. You hear only, as they would have it, a “giant cosmic organ” enveloping you in a buoyant, lasting, threedimensional sound. Like a thunderstorm on a summer night, a warm euphony is pummeled by distant drumming and periodically shaken by intrusions of strange noises and a nearly unrecognizable guitar. Lacey and Maryliz’s vocals forge ahead into the darkness, with words and courage that somehow rouse you to follow.