As with all forms of self-expression, songwriting is about getting whats in your head onto a recording. Sharing your emotions behind the mask of melody can be cathartic. Psychological relief through song is what Timothy Showalter does best with his alt rock project Strand Of Oaks.
On his 5th album Hard Love, Showalter has found a happy medium between therapy and rock n’ roll by incorporating the fun and dark side of each.
Divorce, homelessness, and a near fatal car accident are just a few things Showalter has faced during his adult life.
All of which have influenced his previous releases, most notably his 2014 breakthrough Heal. However, despite tackling such heavy subject matters, Hard Love never feels like a pity party. The emotional distress is prevelent but fine tuned by Showalter’s knack for Paul Westerberg melodies.
The lead single “Radio Kids” is a nostalgic love letter to the youthful days when blocking out the world was as easy as putting on a set of headphones. The stand out rock song is the T- Rex meets Replacements “Rest Of It”.
When Hard Love dips into emotional territory, it’s rarely delicate.
“Quit It” begins as something of a ballad about numbing pain with alcohol before changing into a tirade about addiction. Even the piano driven centerpiece “Cry” is overtaken by bizarre samples before ending abruptly. The psychedelic closer “Taking Acid and Talking To My Brother” tells the story of Showalter’s brother in a medically induced coma.
I’m a firm believer in expressing my deepest insecurities through art. In many ways, this is the kind of music I wish I could produce. It’s obvious Showalter uses Strand Of Oaks to keep himself grounded. Even songs about relishing the lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock n roll, are strangely empowering. Hard Love is candid and honest but never exhausting. Strand Of Oaks delivers just the right amount of emotion, psyche, and attitude to make Hard Love the most satisfying record of the year so far.
Hard Love is available on vinyl, digital, cassette, and cd on bandcamp
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.