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Strand of Oaks

Strand of Oaks (photo by Maclay Hariot, PR)
by

Hard Love
Strand Of Oaks
Dead Oceans

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Timothy Showalter, who records as Strand of Oaks, is an Indiana native who now calls Pennsylvania home. His fifth album is Hard Love and it comes three years after HEAL, a critically-acclaimed work which significantly broadened his fan base. Showalter’s bold and uninhibited brand of American rock comes from the spirit and soul of a man who finds comfort, empowerment, and redemption in music. He writes deeply honest and therapeutic songs that reflect his everyday life in a way that is instantly relatable.

The songs on Hard Love are inspired by the events and experiences that touched Showalter since the release of HEAL. These range from his troubled marriage to his frame of mind in the aftermath of a busy touring schedule. Most importantly, they touch on the realities and adjustments of growing older and having to leave behind a simpler, carefree life for the complicated realities and responsibilities of growing older.

Hard Love is a rich, deep album that marries dense guitars, pounding drums, synths, and healthy doses of distortion—a sound that matches Showalter's frustrations and inner turmoil. In “Radio Kids,” he laments the loss of an innocent time when the radio provided a simple means of discovery and escape. It’s a state of mind now lost in adulthood and it’s something he wishes he could recapture. Buzzy psychedelic threads dance throughout the album, especially on the freaked out “On The Hill” which recalls Showalter’s enlightening experiences at a music festival in Australia.

“Cry” is one of the album’s emotionally heartwrenching songs. It's a sparse piano ballad where Showalter sings in an aching voice: “The way you sweetly abuse me/Our love on the line/We hope only for magic/We live only lies/Hey, you’re making me cry.”

Another dose of life’s harsh realities inspires “Taking Acid And Talking To My Brother.” During the writing stage of Hard Love, Showalter’s younger brother suffered massive cardiac failure and was near death. It was a frightening crisis that gave rise to this swirling, trippy, eight-minute rumination. “Rest Of It,” a freewheeling garage rocker, features guitarist Jason Anderson providing a muscular, blistering solo.

Curiously, this version of Hard Love is actually the second time around for these songs; Showalter's first attempt at recording didn't yield the results he wanted, so he called on friends like Anderson, on guitar, bass and keyboards, and producer Nicolas Vernhes, who also contributed bass and synths. Vernhes, who was born in Paris, operates his own recording studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, which is where Hard Love was recorded.

Showalter's second pass at Hard Love benefits from an unencumbered and spontaneous approach to recording; as Strand Of Oaks, he's developed into one of rock’s more formidable singers and songwriters. Hard Love feeds off Showalter's 2014 release HEAL and like that album, couples songs of desperation with those of hope. But with Hard Love, he finds real passion and restlessness. One thing is certain—don’t expect a let up from Strand of Oaks.

Programming note: An FUV Live concert with Strand of Oaks, recorded at Rockwood Music Hall on February 6, will air this Thursday, February 16, at 8 p.m. EST on 90.7FM, streaming on WFUV.org.