Review: Strand of Oaks Coming of Middle Age Reflection ‘Eraserland’ – Rolling Stone
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Review: Strand of Oaks’ Coming-of-Middle Age Reflection ‘Eraserland’

Singer-songwriter ponders pushing 40 on songs that evoke Bowie and Crazy Horse

Strand of Oaks, 2019

Strand of Oaks, 2019

Alysse Gafkjen

Timothy Showalter is ready to put away childish things, or at least sing about it. Over the past decade, the singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist has made his mark as the mastermind auteur behind the blissed out jams and shaggy rock mythmaking of Strand of Oaks. “I was lonely,” he sang on the cautious nostalgia trip of his 2014 breakthrough “Goshen 97,” “but I was having fun!”

Five years later, Showalter spends the majority of his new album meditating on what to do when that fun grows stale and creating your own rock and roll legend starts feeling tired. Eraserland, his latest LP, puts forth a rather convincing argument that turning 36 years old as a guitar player is, in fact, a high-stakes spiritual crisis: “I’ll be that bartender with boring stories,” he sings longingly on “Keys,” one of the album’s several middle-aged “move to LA” fantasies, “I gotta get my shit together before I’m 40.”

Recording with members of My Morning Jacket, Showalter sounds re-energized on this dynamic collection of spaced out power pop and dreamy psych-rock that owes a bit to fellow Philadelphians War on Drugs. The record’s ten songs trace the songwriter’s sober reflections and search for tranquility amidst glam-Bowie guitar freakouts (“Hyperspace Blues”), transcendent Crazy Horse jams (“Forever Chords”), and oddball tributes to Malcolm Young (“Moon Landing”).

There’s a fresh clarity to Showalter’s latest that feels far removed from the anxious, claustrophobic reverb-rock of 2017’s Hard Love and 2014’s Heal. If Showalter has become newly focused on carving out new spaces for self-betterment in his songwriting, so too do the recordings themselves, produced by Kevin Ratterman; they have more room to breath, and less need to clutter Showalter’s musings with layers of guitars. The result is Strand of Oaks’ most lasting, accessible album yet, one that’s not as concerned with its own internal drama and more interested in communicating the power in dreaming up a better life. “I am the eraserland,” as Showalter puts it, “I can start again.”

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