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Strand of Oaks: Hard Love

by John Adamian on May 18, 2017
If you embrace the idea of rock as a cathartic, healing ritual or something pretty close to religion or magic, then you will enjoy the new Strand of Oaks, which hints at the epic rock-preacher work of Nick Cave, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Westerberg, Patti Smith, Joe Strummer and even The Cult. The layers of nostalgia are thick and the sonic allusions are many, but it never seems overly focused on recreating anything. The album is more about processing the feeling of being lost in the past, of losing the past—the way music and memory lift you up but also pull you back and sometimes hold you down with their weight. Strand of Oaks is Timothy Showalter, and he sings with a pleasing bit of husk and depth to his voice, like he’s been up all night doing it and has just had a breakthrough. The songs generally move with a saturated cloud of heavy distortion that’s kept low enough in the mix to make a haze without obscuring everything else. Fans of The Hold Steady and The War on Drugs should be able to sink into this record without much trouble. Those in search of a little ‘90s radio-rock nostalgia might find themselves thinking of the Goo Goo Dolls or the Gin Blossoms, more in the texture of the recording, the contours of a melody or the timbre of Showalter’s voice. “Make it good, make it real, make it true,” he sings on “Salt Brothers,” an anthemic, slow-burning song with a moving chorus—“When you come down, I’ll come up”—and a biting sustain to the electric guitars that approaches a howl.
Authors: John Adamian
Artist: Strand of Oaks
Album: Hard Love
Label: Dead Oceans