Songs for my Grandfather
Reviewed by: Adam J. Pugh [Tue, November 11, 2008 @ 9:48:12 PM]
I know record labels have their hands full with so many artists, releasing important musical statements like Hillary Duff’s greatest hits. Unfortunately for many, even smaller labels are so focused on the money makers, that they overlook solid gold sitting in their mailboxes. I will admit, it took me awhile to get around to this one, but I have been so engrossed in it over time that it has been hard to put into words.
Scattered Trees is a band you need to know. Whether you are into folk, rock or anything in between, there is no telling what this record may do to you. The group, originally comprised of a sole member - Nate Eiesland, is now a full band and has turned out a wonderful record called Songs for my Grandfather. The music is full of lush orchestrations and male/female harmonies that are irresistible.
The lyrics are clever stories that could easily stray into cliché but somehow tow the line gracefully. You asked me to write you a song/ That you could sing to/ I love the idea/ That every word I’d hear/ Would come from you, from the track Duet. And the title track is a neat story you could hear a relative speaking to you, or whispering in someone’s ear on this Veteran’s Day: On that day/ That I sailed away/ I made her proud/ I heard her say/ I love this land/ And I’ll sacrifice/ To Keep her Free/ That’s why we fight.
The acoustic, indie, folk movement will have to wake up to hear this one and realize that Sufjan Stevens may no longer be the poster boy for emotive folk-rock. Pick this up, buy the MP3s, do whatever you can to support this band and get their music in your hands. This will make you rethink your music collection.
Rating: 9 out of 10
RIYL: Rocky Votolato, Waxwing, Sufjan Stevens, The Format, Jon Foreman
-Adam J. Pugh
By Andy Downing | Special to the Chicago Tribune April 10, 2009
Beauty of Scattered Trees
Scattered Trees music is the perfect accompaniment to spring. Even the crew's more introspective tracks (like the lilting "I Will Say This Twice") sound as if they were recorded in the warming heat of the late-afternoon sun, frontman Nate Eiesland casually delivering his words between sips of lemonade from his perch on a porch swing. One can almost hear the floorboards creaking on the equally gorgeous "Sparrow" (both streaming at myspace.com/scatteredtreesmusic), where, backed by a gentle strum of acoustic guitar, Eiesland pines for winter's end, singing, "Oh, sweet summer sparrow sing your song/You know that I've waited all year long." Scattered Trees, which Eiesland started as a solo pursuit after moving to Rockford from Brainerd, Minn., has changed nearly as dramatically as the seasons since its 2005 formation. The group now numbers six (recent addition, pianist/vocalist Jason Harper, does not appear in the accompanying band photo), and recording has evolved into a fully democratic process where each member has his or her say ("It's not like someone just comes in to lay down drum tracks and says, 'OK, you can show me the finished record when you're done,' " notes Eiesland). Reached on a snowy day in late March, the front man discussed his growth as a songwriter, the group's swelling ranks and his lofty goals for the Trees' music.
Tribune: Scattered Trees started as a solo project, right? Eiesland: The band started as an idea. I had written these songs, so I got some friends together [to help record]. It started with this idea of a community of musicians coming together. After that, a member here and a member there became permanent.
Q: How has the shifting lineup affected your songwriting? A: After that first concept record [a song cycle inspired by the months of the year that Eiesland dismisses half-jokingly by saying, "We don't speak of that record"] we moved to "Song for My Grandfather." I wouldn't call ["Song"] naïve, but it was written before I got married, so those songs are a really young me going through being in love. After that, the lineup solidified and I started writing more for the band.
Q: When did you start writing songs? A: When I was 15 I started learning guitar. That was also the time I started writing. I suppose I had always been musical. My parents sang at church. I was singing harmonies with them in the car—mainly church hymns. [Music] was something that really came alive in me.
Q: How much do you draw on personal experience in your music? A: It sounds cliché, but I will put all of myself into the songs. I'm trying to put something out there that people can connect with. We're all mutually invested in this thing. You pour so much of yourself into it that it almost becomes more than music at a point.
Band of the month: JANUARY 2009
Unless you’re from Chicago, the name Scattered Trees probably won’t mean very much too you; but if you have a liking for emotive folk rock scattered-treesand bands such as Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead, remember the name because these guys are amazing. The band was formed by Nathan Eiseland who’s steadily being adding band members, including his wife Alissa. They’ve already recorded an album, Song for my grandfather, and an 8 track EP Heart of glass which are both available on itunes. This month they are back in the studio, and if the tracks below are anything to go by, the next record could be something very special.
METROMIX OF THE TWIN CITIES
...They’ll be joined by Chicago’s Scattered Trees who play slick emotive pop-rock that wouldn’t sound out of place on Cities 97 and qualify as semi-natives since front man Nate Eiesland hails from Brainerd.
Songs For My Grandfather
Laid back folk rock with an emotional heart.
This folk four piece from Chicago have such a laid back sound it’s practically sleeping on the job. Apparently featured on the Starbucks sampler “Off the Clock Vol 1” they have the kind of sound that’s very suited to that kind of environment; quite non-descript and quiet, background music with not many distinguishing features. You can imagine this playing while you tuck in to your extraordinarily expensive skinny-caramel-macchiato-with-an-extra-shot. Ok, jokes aside, and there have probably been a few, but it does make them reasonably hard to take seriously knowing that they’re a coffee house staple. However, it does mean they’ve been on a record that’s sold over 30,000 copies which is something many bands would like to see happen to them.
The tunes on “Song For My Grandfather” are very pleasant, the soft vocals are soothing and its very slickly done but not over produced. Tracks like ‘Duet’ have some nice quirky acoustic riffs and lovely duel male/female vocals. Overall though this is an album that will be far too middle of the road for most people, many of the tracks slide past without you really noticing, like the quiet speccy nerd in maths class that no one remembers five years later; often it’s very hard to keep focussed on what you’re hearing because it is just so quiet and unassuming, even when it tries to be loud it’s like a mouse walking on carpet.
Local five-piece Scatteredtrees is playing Beat Kitchen this Thursday with Welsh band People in Planes, and will offer a new live EP for free at the show. The band's sadly beautiful songs, propelled by the expressive vocals and songwriting of Nate Eiesland, sound something like a mix of Wilco and Aimee Man at their most low-key.
Scatteredtrees gained recognition last year when their track "Sparrow" was included on the Starbucks compilation "Off the Clock, Vol. 1," which sold more than 30,000 copies. The band signed to 4AM records the same year and released an EP titled "Heart of Glass," but have since gone indie.
Check out "Sparrow" and three tracks from the new EP - "You Said That You'd Wait," "I Will Say This Twice" and "Reason to Stay" – on the Scatteredtrees MySpace page. -Frank Krolicki
“Poor Man’s Suit” could rock a lonely old man to sleep on a Friday night and the folksy swagger of “Cigarettes” does no wrong." -Sari Delmar