Scattered Trees: SYMPATHY

Tue May 24 2011
Chicago’s Scattered Trees started up years ago, splintered apart and then reconvened to record Sympathy, a dedication to the memory of frontman Nate Eiesland’s father, whose death inspired Eiesland to write this collection of songs.  Listeners will have no trouble picking up on the mournful pathos and occasional bitterness that permeate the record; even the songs that don’t directly address mortality evoke a feeling of loss, making for a cohesive album that’s not as depressing as it could justifiably have been.

It’s mostly wistful and dreamy pop if understandably grave, somewhat Death Cabby but not so ambivalent and rarely upbeat.  “A Conversation About Death On New Year’s Eve” has all the subtlety of an impulsive kiss on a high-school crush, and it only takes one perfect line to nail the inescapable melodrama of alienated youth: “It doesn’t haunt you like it haunts me/That everybody’s falling apart”.  It’s a song that will fill you with gratitude for whatever memory it conjures, even though it’s probably a sad one.

Amongst Modest Mousey fare like “Four Days Straight” and “Five Minutes” and the pensive acoustic touches of “Where You Came From” and the title track, there’s plenty of effective material and some choice lyrics (aside from “I Swear To God”), but “Conversation” is the only song that sticks with you for the long haul.  A band that can put together a thoroughly listenable and frequently engaging debut album with one great, enduring track is worth keeping a lookout for, though.
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