Through two albums with Lost In The Trees — 2010’s All Alone In An Empty House and 2012’s A Church That Fits Our Needs, songwriter and composer Ari Picker clawed at the wounds of a troubled childhood in emotional detail. Working through devastating memories and heartache in song can often be an exercise in therapy for the songwriter and listeners alike, and while Lost In The Trees’ lyrics certainly explored those painful thoughts, its music soared with overwhelming beauty thanks to its stirring folk songs embellished with chamber music arrangements.
But with the band’s latest album, Past Life, the Chapel Hill collective seems to be shedding its skin. For the first time, Picker and bandmate Emma Nadeau collaborated together on the songwriting, crafting miniature film scores in pop song form. That can be heard on Lost In The Trees’ title track, “Past Life” or “Night Walking,” which eschews the trademark strings for a sleeker, minimalist tone built around eerie and distorted synthesizers, electronic sequencers and an almost disco-like sheen.
As much as I miss what the string section brought to Lost In The Trees, especially live in concert, this music is no less densely layered — musically or lyrically. Past Life presents a scaled-down, spacious sound that may feel darker, yet there’s a calming warmth and steady dance pulse running throughout that hints at hope, and a bit of fun.