Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Silver Skies - Lake Forest

Silver Skies

Lake Forest
Delaware House Records.

SCQ Rating: 77%

Will Whitwham first gained recognition as songwriter in The Wilderness Of Manitoba, a folk troupe that – as seen from this promotional video – really muses after nature. Taking inspiration from the trees, animals, breezes and soil is actually more direct of a conduit for universality than singing about love; it’s a constant that most humans cannot readily ignore and an escape for those of us feeling particularly disconnected between the grey shades of urbanity. While it’s a valid argument to state that few genres are as adept at conveying the rustic reality of our surroundings quite like folk, one can’t help but acknowledge that it was an oversaturation of natural imagery that facilitated the death of new age.

With The Wilderness Of Manitoba already carrying so much feel-good, post-hippie sentiment, Whitwham’s chosen moniker of Lake Forest suggested, if not an overbearing allegiance to doe-eyed solemnity, a perversion of art’s most resilient muse. Luckily Silver Skies doesn’t hammer its listeners with earnest nature-bound metaphors so much as relaying vignettes of love and loss next to an autumnal backdrop. Committing to traditional composition with sparse but recurring melodic touches, Whitwham crafts sweet understatement on “Escape the Moon” and “Silver Stars”.

Besides satisfyingly folky arrangements, Silver Skies also features grander approaches to Whitwham’s songwriting, most notably on the “Birds Of Prey”, with its haunted Elliott Smith reminiscent piano interplay, and “Ohio”, where a whole lot of echo introduces Lake Forest’s more obvious comparative point: Bon Iver. As a cottage-bound, lonely-guy record, Silver Skies does a respectable job of keeping off of Justin Vernon’s over-puffed coattails. Although veering for a similarly peaceful solitude, Whitwham and Vernon arrive at different ports on account of their distinct sensibilities. Tracks like “Whispers” and “An Autumn Sun Will Set the Land On Fire”, while less audacious than Bon Iver’s work, succeed as equally grounded mood-pieces that yearn to connect, human to human. Any natural imagery spotted along the way settles nicely, where it should, into Silver Skies sleepy ambience.

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