Label: Virgin Records
A Fine Frenzy releases the kind of music you’re not only compelled to listen but dared to feel in your soul. If an instant connection with her flawless piano melodies or dramatic strings isn’t quickly established then I feel your ability to connect with music at all is in need of re-evaluation. Pines is a book filled with treasures. It is highly important that you’re mentally and emotionally prepared to devour all it has to offer because Alison is about to pull you into her world with a combination of symbolism and authentic music.
PINES, Alison Sudol’s third full-length as A Fine Frenzy is a fable about a pining tree who is given the unheard-of chance (for a conifer) to make a life of her own choosing. Drawing inspiration from the redwood forests and dramatic landscapes of Northern California and Washington’s Cascade Mountains, the thirteen new original songs survey a sonic landscape as vast and deep as the woods, their namesake.
The breathy Pinesong refers to the longing the singer has felt and how easier it is for her to yearn for something or someone as oppose to dealing with it directly. The album’s concept is emphasized in its opener. If you’re familiar with Alison’s music then you’ll know that there’s always a story playing out from the first track to the last. And what I love about Pine Song is how not depressing it sounds, rather it tugs on my heart and gets me interested by the unique composition of the instruments and Alison’s pure singing. She’s not succumbing to her loss but accepting that its time to give up.
Literature is a major part of A Fine Frenzy and poetically written lyrics are to be expected. Just listen to Winds of Wander and you’ll find substantial evidence. The track starts off with the sound of birds chirping, an acoustic guitar setting a folk mood, and then branches off into a raging mixture of dramatic bass and classical elements creating a fairytale like classical masterpiece. The song’s earthy appeal works, and I’m sold.
The heart pounding drumbeat setting off the next track was absolutely marvelous. Avalanches has all the theatrics to keep an intense atmosphere stable, and I couldn’t find a more fitting title for a track as this one. The vocal arrangement saturates my soul, the ranges are well balanced, and the words are just right. The song conveys a promise to always be there for the one you love and care for no matter what troubles may draw near. Alison allows emotion to carry her through and effortlessly persuades with nothing but passion.
The music video said so much in such a subtle manner. The concept of a girl with no human companion but that of wolves walking together in the cold mountains was intriguing. More so with animals by her side instead of a man as I was expecting to see from what I heard in the lyrics of the song. But I can guess we should always expected the unexpected when it comes to this lady and her use of metaphors.
There’s something rather compelling about Riversong. A cold gush of wind rushes through my body once Alison starts singing and I can hear the running water while she sings. And that ghostly harmonizing in the background takes the cake. The song’s about finding yourself and where you truly want to be in life. At least that’s what I’ve deciphered.
I’ve made it to the fifth track and its yet another acoustic number. I’m hesitant to believe there will be some up-tempos along the way because of the foundation Alison has built for herself in music. The Sighting signifies her artistry that explores deep plunges of toms, blissful piano melodies, and electrified vocals, which she does greatly at portraying in her songs. The track is rather soothing and romantically produced, delivering a sense of escape, or rather a form of entrapment created by her voice.
By the time Dream in the Dark kicked in I slipped slightly off track. While the song does continue the concept, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by its slow composition. The sound of rushing waves on an active ocean added to the lazy vibe as well, made me feel as if I wanted to throw myself in the sand and sleep until the sun sets. The transition into the next was remarkable though.
Sailing Song exploded in the energy I was looking for. The uptempo beat and eccentric singing worked perfectly together. That hook is just catchy, and the grungy guitar had my heart fluttering. This is now my favorite track on the album. The song is about letting go and finding peace, whether in your heart or in your surroundings. The fun and laid back lyrics play out the title of the track and the meaning behind its predecessor.
I was completely lost by the beginning of Sad Sea Song, but reassured myself with the fact that it was a story being told and songs transitioned appropriately into the next. The deep sound of the ocean led me into believing someone was drowning in its depths. Its a rather haunting yet arousing number, and the distorted guitar piqued my interest further. The meaning behind the words can be interpreted as is, in reference to the unpredictable sea, or in regards to the issues of a relationship. Taken either way, Alison is obviously conveying the truth that nothing remains the same, things change.
They Can’t If You Don’t Let Them took me by surprise, literally, with that immediate crash of instruments the moment the track started off. If she’s trying to prove a point then its well clear. Alison is definitely on fire in this one. Her boldness resounds in every line, as her voice soars over an impressively orchestrated arrangement of excessively emotional melodies. I can see how challenging it could be for the selection of singles but I strongly feel drawn to this as the next one.
Dance of the Grey Whales is a sweet and breathless piece that touches the heart. The sound of actual whales is the biggest highlight of the track, which showcases Alison’s undeniable talent with her fingers. Any individual highly skilled at any instrument is deserving of truthful appreciation.
It’s Alive is a soul-shaking, up-tempo old school pop influenced track. The moment the song takes off I’m swept away by its groovy beat and Alison’s sultry singing. Her voice is as smooth as butter and as sweet as honey. The song is certainly alive with the sensual arrangement of harmonies and hypnotic melodies. I loved the reach of her voice towards the end and how passionate she sounded. This is another favorite of mine.
A catchy and up-tempo first single is always a good idea. Now Is The Start is one of those songs you can’t help but move and clap along with whenever it starts playing. Its modern electropop influences could set a positive vibe in any room and get music lovers to the dance floor. Alison has me smiling uncontrollably to this track and I can’t even begin to interpret exactly what the message is, except for the fact that now is the time to do something, possibly with your life? Who knows.
Grasses Grow concludes the album on an intense and honest note. The song brushes across my heart and revisits a place Almost Lovers resided. This is slightly reminiscent of her debut single in comparison to its sorrowful piano melody but the track embodies an element incomparable to anything else. The song describes realizing that you’ve been right where you belong when all the while you’ve been searching otherwise. It could also mean redemption, in a way.
Alison Sudol, or A Fine Frenzy as she’s known, delivered a pleasant and acceptable third album. Pines is beautifully put together, in terms of production and song lyrics. I have to say that Alison continues to impress me with her skills. She’s amazingly talented; writing her own music and creating such unique concepts. And although it would seem the album was recorded with trees, rivers, coldness, animals, fishes, and pines in mind, it demonstrates more artistry than the recycled trends of the music industry at present.
02. Winds of Wander
03. Avalanches (Culla’s Song)
05. The Sighting
06. Dream In the Dark
09. They Can’t If You Don’t Let Them
10. Dance of the Gray Whales
11. It’s Alive
12. Now is the Start
13. Grasses Grow