Lost in the Trees

A Church That Fits Our Needs

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On paper, North Carolina's Lost in the Trees' second full-length outing sounds about as enjoyable as last-chance day at the pound, but this 12-track song cycle, which chronicles the life and death of bandleader Ari Picker's artist mother, who committed suicide in 2009, is as moving and life affirming as it is moribund and gut wrenching. Much of that can be attributed to Picker's incredibly complex, endlessly fascinating composition style, which draws heavily from his classical training, yet maintains a smart, accessible core that brings to mind Sufjan Stevens at his least quirky -- tubas, strings, flutes, harps, bells, and trumpets rarely sound this muscular. Haunting as it may be, A Church That Fits Our Needs succeeds on nearly every level, from the grandiose ("Garden," "Neither Here Nor There") to the austere ("This Dead Bird Is Beautiful," "Vines"), and Picker's voice, which is strong, sonorous, and measured, and never betrays the emotional slap of a lyric like "Icy river/put your arms around my mother/I burned her body in the furnace/'til all that was left was her glory." Picker manages to convey every stage of grief, from anger to acceptance, without the slightest bit of solipsism, and it's that honesty that makes even the most brutal moments on this extraordinary album seem rooted in the hope that the world around him has simply transformed, rather than come crumbling down around him.

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