The Lonely Forest – Arrows

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

The Lonely Forest

Arrows - Trans Records

When I learned that Seattle indie-rock outfit The Lonely Forest was signed to Death Cab For Cutie frontman Chris Walla’s label, Trans, I finally understood my feelings towards the band’s third full length,Arrows.  The disc sounds exactly like something you would expect Walla to jump on.  Like his own band, The Lonely Forest is low key, calm, and approachable.  To that end, Arrows is an easy listen that can be thrown on during a multitude of occasions and left to play its course with little objection.  It does, however, lack a certain payoff characteristic to its parent host.

That being said, Arrow’s strength is its ambition.  For such a sleepy sound, much thought has gone into each fleeting moment.  Subtle soundboard loops layer amidst piano keys ranging from peppy (“I Am The Love Skeptic”) to solemn (“Tunnels”).  A great example of emotional range can be found on the two-part concept duo, “(I Am) The Love Addict” and the aforementioned “(I Am) The Love Skeptic.”  The duo examines love from the competing perspectives implied by the titles.  The first takes a rational view built on discerning experiences, and the second sides with one of absolute infatuation.  Curiously, each one exists as more than a simple “sad” and “happy” dichotomy – both defining mindsets fully embracing one perspective rather than making absolute judgments.

Furthermore, tracks like “We Sing In Time” and “I Don’t Want To Live There” exemplify a keen ability for crafting tuneful, chorus heavy serenades.  “We Sing In Time” exists at a steady tempo with just enough energy and lyrical novelty to plant the key loop firmly in memory.  “In time the trees die and light will fade/but I hope for a new breath/a new life to take me away” croons vocalist John Vanduesen as he tries breaking free from life’s cyclical nature of mistakes.  “I Don’t Want To Live There” never attempts anything as profound, but taps into the universally binding longing for home and belonging.

However, what succeeds on many tracks falls flat for others.  Sometimes The Lonely Forest settles on a loop that fails to deliver after repeated build-up.  The track “Turn Off This Song And Go Outside” might be fun to sing along with for the first couple choruses, but the eventual instrumental conclusion doesn’t offer the promised punch – instead making a case for following the title’s recommendation.  The same sort of underwhelming tameness surfaces on “Coyote,” and arguably drags out their otherwise enjoyable concluding track, “Arrows.” During these moments, Arrow’s ambition gets the best of the band, bogging down and burying rather than building up and amplifying their smart concepts. It’s the same type of void I’ve encountered with likeminded groups like Daniel G. Harmann and The Trouble Starts.

Ambition isn’t always synonymous with success, but in the case of The Lonely Forest, it can be intermittent.  At fifty minutes Arrows boasts more successes than failures, but drags its feet for more than a few dry periods.  It’s an easy album to keep on, but not always at keeping one’s attention.  Still, make no mistake about it, Arrows is a good album – it just feels like it could have been great.