Timothy Showalter aka Strand of Oaks has always had a good relationship with the acoustic guitar and all earthy, authentic weight that comes with that particular instrument, producing record after record of strummed sleepers. But recently, it seems they’ve had a little falling out.

‘HEAL’, Showalter’s fourth album, throws the folk into the fire, summoning an electro beast from its ashes. The sullen strums of yore have been replaced with smothered synth keys, making the world of oak infinitely shinier. It’s clear the aim is to distance itself from the past, but I’m not sure creating an album of The National b-sides is the best way to do it.

‘Shut in’ and ‘Plymouth’ miss the mark so badly that they end up hitting Bono right on the bonce, which would be a brilliant thing if it caused some damage, but so much of ‘HEAL’ doesn’t feel heavy enough for that, even if Showalter is still bravely singing from him personal diary. So it might be best if Strand of Oaks made friends with the acoustic guitar again. Maybe it wasn’t so dull after all.


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