This review was originally published at GoldFlakePaint.
Big Tree’s debut album “This New Year” is a musical masterpiece that slowly surrounds the listener, unfolding in intricate layers like a physical landscape. Many of the tracks center around the outdoors and, as the band draws their name from the natural landscape, it makes sense that the music reflect visceral and raw elements of emotion. Much of this is due to the vocal prowess and power of lead vocalist Kaila McIntyre-Bader. She has one of those voices that haunts your ears long after you stop listening to it. When I imagine what the mythological sirens sounded like, ones with voices so mesmerizing they caused soldiers to crash their ships onto rocks, I am fairly certain they sounded a bit like McIntyre- Bader.
Aside from manning the vocals, McIntyre-Bader writes Big Tree’s songs, which is probably why she can belt them with such conviction and tenderness. Her lyrics contain intimate details that often feel like secrets we shouldn’t be privy too, an aspect that makes the songs that much more compelling.
Almost constantly accompanied vocally with harmonies from Anna Ghezzi, the sound of Big Tree is completed with a killer bass line, and excellent guitar and piano hooks to create a wide, sweeping sound. A whole ecosystem of sound is contained in each and every track, for instance the song ‘Augury’ is imbued with such physicality, the soaring, cyclical chorus reflects the elemental nature of the band.
‘This Fall’ is the album’s opener and instant single. I heard someone describe it as sounding as though five separate songs were contained in the single track, which is an apt way to describe it and many of Big Tree’s songs manage to contain this same multi-faceted element, without ever feeling crowded or overdone.
My personal favorite track on the album is the lilting ‘Seattle Bound’. Perhaps it is because my sister Natalie, the dearest person to my heart lives in Seattle, or perhaps it’s because it is simply a wonderfully crafted song about the constrains of the time space continuum we must face with those we love.
Many of the songs revolve lyrically around that one relationship that makes the rest of the world disappear. ‘(Home)Here’ is another example of this, as part of the chorus repeats the line “I can’t stop thinking’ about/I can’t stop thinking’ about”, in an insistent manner that will be familiar to anyone who has experienced the instant attraction and inability to focus on other things that is often mingled with new love.
Big Tree also employs the technique of being able to sing about deeply saddening topics in songs that remain musically cheerful and upbeat. The track ‘October’ does this flawlessly, as the lyrics decry the change of seasons and the changes in life against a backdrop of circling voices, piano and brass that sound like a celebration, providing a delightful contrast.
This album is one of the most solid pieces of musicianship I’ve heard in the year 2011. The tracks lead into each other so naturally, in the same way that the leaves change color, in the same way that the rain turns to snow. In essence, This New Year feels like one big song that doesn’t ever really end, but merely goes through different seasons over the course of the album. The year that this album presents musically is a strange and beautiful one, a melodic array of seasons that should not be missed.