Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The Chapel Hill, N.C., band Lost In The Trees has a song entitled "All Alone In An Empty House," and the beginning of it as the creaking of what sounds like a rocking chair, following the lead of an old acoustic guitar. The rocking keeps its own tempo, bending the floorboards below it with persistence and the song clips along, likely as the laundry is out on the line in back, drying as fast as the wind will allow it. We picture that lead singer Ari Picker is surrounded by a huge lawn, ringed around an old wooden cottage that speaks to you, achingly in complete sentences are you walk down its hallways, even when you do it in the quietest manner that's known to you. It's a house that we'd imagine has seen better times, but through all of it and through all of the many families that have lived and struggled while living within it, it's a charmed residence that brings back countless fond memories for ghosts and those still living and able to recollect, upon visiting. As he moves through the song, Picker gets to expressing nuttier and nuttier moods. He's become a man who may have started as a calm fellow rocking contentedly in his reading room, to a man visited by hallucinations and finding that the big, old, empty house is leading him into some form of madness. He goes from singing, "There's a cloud in my head," a situation that's not at all lamentable, to be free of the clutter that clogs us up, to a situation where we're concerned about a baby and we fear that someone's gonna burn the place down. We're swallowed up by this tale of a man - though not really content at all, just sounding like it in the peaks and the valleys - who has lost everything. His wife - whom he built this house for - is gone, dead or just gone, and the children that he raised up have passed away. He buried them and much of the scenario feels like the plot from "Shutter Island," a journey into the black hole of lunacy thanks to a handful of other people going berserk and wrecking all of his dreams - at least the ones that he didn't sacrifice when he married the girl, despite her bitched mouth. It's a captivating story that is only a glimpse of what Lost In The Trees, an a full-on ensemble, do best - but it's a telling one all the same, for it stretches us and these stories out into these taunting sensations where the tragic endings are so gloriously given to us that we celebrate them as things as beautiful as beautiful can be. We find that we fall in love with the unhappiness that unfolds - those cold hearts and the warm ones that are broken - and we live better having heard these lush tales of undeniable depth and hurt. We hope to never have to face these kinds of hurts - that this is going to be the closest we'll ever get to them - through the orchestrations of Lost In The Trees.