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Timber release “The Family” LP

With an upbeat yet subtle melody waiting to greet us as we press play on “Burying Ground,” Timber’s new album The Family starts off on a groove that is as light as a feather but punctuated with rigidly textured sonic nuances. “Burying Ground” is a tender, vocal-driven ballad that swings ever so softly but nevertheless packs a punch in its wry lyricism, which invites us to fall in love with the wit and wisdom of singer Will Stewart. Janet Simpson’s emotional vocal contribution wanders on the outside, slipping through the cracks of the instruments and meeting with Stewarts in the chorus like a long lost lover reuniting with her beau. The levels modulate and our focus gradually becomes clearer as the melodic haze fades away. This opening track sets the tone for The Family perfectly, but it’s not the only sparkling nugget to be found in its eight sophisticated songs.

We transition into “As a Kill” and Simpson takes over center stage with her tuneful groove, which divinely washes over the string parts and tepid drumming in the foreground like a fresh coat of paint on rusty steel doors. The music grinds ever so slowly, synchronizing with our hearts as we become transfixed by Simpson’s elegant voice, which wraps around us affectionately in just under six minutes of play. “Colors” sees her rejoin Stewart for a jarring ballad that rips through the march of the previous song and brands its melancholic stare into our souls. The rich vibrato is tapered by the crushing lyricism of Stewart, who grips us tightly with his prose in this track only to unforgivingly release us into the wicked vortex that is “Downtown.”

“Downtown” moves at the pace of a funeral march, but feels remarkably pressuring and urgent just the same. It’s like we’re running in slow motion, caught in a dream that is continuously generating more and more ground in front of us, ensuring that no matter how fast we go, we’ll never escape the melody that Simpson is dispensing with heavenly authority. Out of the ashes of this fourth song rises “Sunstroke,” a track that cryptically lurches around its beat in the style of a free jazz song. The smoldering guitar is reminiscent of Michio Kurihara’s work on the Boris album Rainbow; it’s delicate yet ominous and foreboding, accented with just a touch of warm tube overdrive and framed by a psychedelic-tinged EQ that makes its energy feel larger than life.

The pop-friendly “Shuttlecock” shifts the direction of The Family back towards a more mainstream, casual tempo but doesn’t shed the experimental jacket the record wore through the first five tracks. “Errant Oblivion” is anything but what its title would imply; rounding up all of the remaining shards of post-rock, it repurposes the intrepid rhythms of the middle portion of the album into a focused, indie pop jam that avoids predictability by introducing a more ambient groove to the album that carries over to the closing number “Move” without interruption. “Move” highlights Timber’s Nashville roots and pays homage to the Americana aesthetic that inspired the band’s formation to begin with. The Family has so many layers to it that trying to break it down in a written review is rather difficult to do without using very metaphorical, imagistic language. My advice is for indie fans to give this album a spin for themselves – it might be hard to describe, but it’s far from inaccessible to anyone who enjoys smooth, eclectic rock n’ roll.

John McCall

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