Strand of Oaks – Dark Shores
Timothy Showalter, the name behind Strand of Oaks, is a great story teller. On ‘Daniel’s Blues’ from his previous album, Pope Killdragon, he plays the part of Dan Akroyd and he’s in a really bad place after the loss of John Belushi. “Rushed to call my agent on my Monday, I need new work to get my head out of this, It’s with a young kid named Murray, It’s a ghost flick but the hell with it’. On Pope Killdragon most of the songs were in the first person, but they felt like they were about other people. So maybe Showalter did dream that he “stayed in the Sterling, In the same bed as Kennedy”, but whether or not he did isn’t important. It’s just a way of setting up the next part of the story where he reminisces that “Jackie and Johnny and Caroline would ride up the mainline”. On the previous album, there’s little doubt that, however the story was told, most of the songs were about Showalter himself and his feelings of loss and anomie. On the new release, Dark Shores, the same is true, but the link is more direct. On ‘Diamond Drill’, he sings that ‘Moon living is a lonely life’. It’s a nice image. But he ends the song with little ambiguity, “As much as it kills me to say it, As much as I like things now, Everyone I know, will either move away or die”. On ‘Spacestations’, he welcomes us up to his home in the sky, “Stay as long as you like, its a sad vocation”. On ‘Satellite Moon’, a third track with the ‘in space no one can hear you scream’ motif, he leaves us in no doubt. “Holy shit I feel like giving up”. On Pope Killdragon, the stories were spun around a pretty lo-fi production, mainly just guitars, synths and a little percussion. Here, there’s more of a band sound. As with the lyrics, it makes things a little less oblique. A little more straightforward. But it doesn’t change much. This is a great album. It’s slightly less immediate than Pope Killdragon. And the sound is different. But, crucially, the story telling is intact. “Minerals formed by the rain, Whispers echo deep inside the cave, On an ice moon where all our fathers’ live, We’ll go there to find some rest”.