I knew from my first listen it was going to be hard for any album to top this one for my best of 2012. I called it back in March when it came out and nothing came close to topping it the rest of the year. Ari Picker's beautifully moving tribute to his mother is a shining example of the power of great music. A Church That Fits Our Needs by Lost In The Trees is unquestionably my Best Album of 2012. My original review is below.
Favorite tracks: "Villain (I'll Stick Around)", "Neither Here Nor There", "Golden Eyelids", "An Artist's Song"
Based out of North Carolina, Lost In The Trees create what group founder Ari Picker calls 'Orchestral Folk Music'. This makes perfect sense as Picker is a classically trained composer, but he has enough of a pop sense to his songwriting that he is able to craft memorable melodies to these wonderfully orchestrated songs. Their second album, A Church That Fits Our Needs, is a deeply personal record for Picker, but through his loss and subsequent healing, he and the band have created a masterpiece.
Picker's mother took her own life in the summer of 2009, and this album is his tribute to her, from the songs and lyrics contained on it to her picture that graces its cover, the same picture that sat above his desk as he wrote the album. In the promotional video for the album, Picker explains the concept as trying to "create a space for my mother's soul I guess to go because I can't really satisfy myself with just thinking that she just went to heaven? So it creates a space for her to kind of become everything that I thought she wanted or needed to become in life." Do not let the heaviness of the concept put you off, this album is undoubtedly one of 2012's best, showered in beauty, mournful yet uplifting.
A Church That Fits Our Needs is one of those albums that needs to be experienced as a whole. Individual songs, of course, stand out but as a song cycle through loss, trying to process it, accepting it and giving his mother's memory a place to live again through the music, only a listen from start to finish will give the full effect of this work. Percussive album opener "Neither Here Nor There" boasts a charming melody and fits the definition of chamber-pop as much as anything here. Picker's falsetto dazzlingly intertwines with the vocal work of Emma Nadeau who contributes throughout the album, including on the album's lead single, the swirling "Red".
"Golden Eyelids" has doo-wop vocals backing its majestic chorus, the elegance of the melody on this track cannot be overstated. Simply swooning and sublime. In "Icy River", Picker sings 'Don't you ever dare think she was weak hearted', a sentiment expressed in other places on the album, as he goes to lengths to explain the hardships his mother faced in her life. Music that is this brutally honest and personal tends to connect with me on a level throwaway radio trash just can't.
The absolute heart wrencher here is "Villain(I'll Stick Around)", which will have a tough time being supplanted as the most gorgeous song I'll hear in 2012. The vulnerability and emotion present in his voice during this performance cannot be faked, it's an incredibly moving piece of music. The song alternates between moments of sparseness with just Picker's falsetto vocals and acoustic guitar, and lush strings with piano accompaniment. Picker observes his mother's spirit as he sings 'There's something here, a golden angel is floating past, past my mirror. She's neither here nor there. It messed me up, it messed me up. I could never leave, now that I've seen your face.' It is as arresting as it sounds, this song absolutely moves me to tears.
As sad as this may all sound, do not let that detract you from A Church that Fits Our Needs. This is Album of the Year caliber stuff, lyrically and musically brilliant and to be blunt, music as a work of art. We all need a mindless pop or dance song every so often, but albums like this are what make me so passionate about music. When a deeply painful personal experience can be shared with the world as something this beautiful, even causing you to reflect on loved ones no longer with you in your life, there's no other art form that comes close to that kind of connection. Exquisite and immaculate.
A Church That Fits Our Needs was released March 20, 2012 on Anti- Records.