On 2012's bold A Church That Fits Our Needs, Lost in the Trees mastermind Ari Picker mourned the suicide of his mother with equal parts grace, empathy, and fury, effectively turning what could have been the biggest downer of the year into a surprisingly stirring and transformative experience that found the sweet spot between meticulous, music school artistry, and baseline, heart on the sleeve humanity. 2014's Past Life finds Picker and the rest of the Chapel Hill orchestral pop outfit dialing back the bombastic melancholia in favor of a more refined, almost monastic approach to songcraft that introduces a few stray rays of sunlight into the room without disrupting the glow of the candelabra. The biggest difference between the two albums, sonically speaking, is the way in which they utilize silence. Where the latter sought fit to fill in most of the gaps, the former treats space like the vacuum it is, sometimes allowing both the ceiling and the floor to drop out, most notably on the slow-burn bookends "Excos" and "Upstairs," both of which are as economical as they are ethereal. Elsewhere, the soulful title track, with its sensual "Sound and Vision" groove, the like-minded "Lady in White," and the majestically somber "Sun" feel less beholden to the Sufjan Stevens model of orchestral folk and more in line with the midnight black sophisti-pop that Destroyer's Dan Bejar was unearthing on 2011's Kaputt. Following up something as powerful and intimate as A Church That Fits Our Needs was never going to be easy, but with Past Life, Lost in the Trees have risen to the occasion and crafted a record that's no less haunted, but decidedly more open to interpretation.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger