by Michele Zipkin
North Carolina-based group Lost in the Trees brought their gorgeous orchestral folk rock to Johnny Brenda’s this past Tuesday night. Needless to say, they completely engulfed the cozy venue with the haunting melodies and artful lyrics that comprise their latest effort, Past Life. So many of the songs on this record are hinged on rock-forward percussion, which serves as a rhythmic skeleton for the folk and rock-influenced instrumental licks and lush string arrangements.
Fronted by Ari Picker, the quintet played several tunes from their most recent album, released on that very day. Some of these included “Lady in White”, “Daunting Friend,” and the title track, laden with that incendiary guitar riff. The trademark strings that classify the band as orchestral folk were produced only via synthesizers, but that didn’t seem to detract from the beauty and grandeur of each song. Picker’s voice flooded the air like a stream of smoke, snaking its way into the tonal atmosphere.
Each song was kind of like a dream, painting little pictures of the band’s experiences and stories. According to the Past Life album trailer, significant inspiration for the record came from poetry that Picker had written about paintings he saw in a museum. “…Out of that came this loose theme about some souls, or beings chasing each other through these different lives,” Picker says.
Pretty bad-ass lighting accompanied many of the group’s more rock-forward tunes, which only ramped up their intensity. For instance when they played the song “Past Life,” a pyramid of white luminescent bars flashed on the wall behind them- the emblem that represents their newest oeuvre.
Picker prefaced the song “Upstairs” by saying that he wanted to do a dance, but was a bit afraid. Nonetheless, he danced a little folky side-step to start off the song, which then progressed to that sweet and serene melody sporting the lyrics “Don’t let me fall apart.” Emma Nadeau, the keyboard player, provided luscious background vocals, as she had done on many other of the group’s songs.
Two solo encores closed out the set, both performed by Picker, of course. The first was “All Alone in an Empty House,” spouting its slow mid-western country guitar work. Unfortunately, it was missing the airy background “oohs” and moving, dancing string parts found on the recording.
The second encore, “Song for the Painter,” honored those who have lost one thing or another, whether that be their life or their means of creating art. Despite its somber themes, two of the band members were dancing arm in arm to the song’s sprightly, bluegrass-y riff.