Reviewed by: Tiffany Taylor
Tall Tall Trees is the latest project of Mike Savino (who plays banjo in Kishi Bashi’s band). Savino’s full length, innovative album Freedays, is the product of a relocation to Northern Georgia where he took inspiration from every corner of his surroundings without the distractions of NYC. This album has a lot to live up to give up to the name Savino has built with his charismatic banjo playing and electrifying sound. This LP is his third, but the first that he wrote, recorded, and produced all on his own. After previously seeing Savino live with Kishi Bashi back in the fall, I knew I had high expectations because his banjo playing is absolutely bad-ass. Besides his homemade banjo, the “Banjotron 5000,” he brings sweet and whimsical lyrics to the forefront of his music and Freedays encapsulates that to a T.
The album takes off with the single “Backroads” which provides a slight introduction that has a definite psychedelic feel before descending into the actual track. A repetitive melody is the backdrop to Savino’s voice; with every second passing the melody complicates itself almost to the point where it is not noticeable. “But I could finally see the stars, I didn’t know what I was missing.” A great line to start an album all about self exploration and time in nature. The album has a definite folk feel but with a twist that is hard to describe. “A Place To Call Your Own,” is the second track on the album and it’s a nice feel good song with deeper back tones that eventually comes full circle. The intricate guitar melodies in the background are complicated and delicate with what feels like reverb cascading them out long after they have been played.
“CLC” is a beautiful track that starts very simple and soft. Savino lets the lyrics take the spotlight and it becomes something of a love song; a love between New York and the life he has there compared to him spending time down south to write the record. Toward the middle of the song, things become more abstract and dissonant, and it is very reminiscent of early ’70s folk (which is a perfect move on his part). “I don’t want to lose you, I just want to love you.” This track ended up becoming my favorite compositionally and lyrically. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the tracks did not start to blend together like most folk albums do. There were numbers of noticeable differences that made Freedays unique especially for its time. “Lost In Time” was slower and ballad-like. I feel like I have been taken back in time with the past couple of tracks, this one in particular. The guitar has such a pull and the reverb is absolutely necessary. Switching between acoustic and the electric is a nice balance for what I assume Savino was trying to achieve.
“SeagullxEagle” showcases the traditional banjo. Savino is definitely recognized with his eclectic banjo playing so it was a fun interlude to hear him play it moderately, traditionally. Accompanied by the violin, it reminds me much of Kishi Bashi and their collaborations together. “So Predictable” comes towards the end of the nine-piece album. It has a slower feel and does not have any noticeable standouts compared to some of the other songs, but nevertheless is still a decent track on the album. The end of the song is probably where it shines the most with about a minute of just instrumentals. The title track, “Freedays”, ends the album on a joyous note. It brings the album to a close in a very celebratory way. There are lots of buildups, more psychedelic elements, driving lyrics- it combines everything the album was into this last song.
Freedays is innovative and intricate. For people who have never had the chance to experience Savino’s work, I would suggest this is a good place to start. His ability to perform is remarkable and absolutely blew me away when I had the opportunity to see him live. With this new album, he has won my heart again and has made me want to travel through nature this spring. I recommend giving this album a shot, it is more than just your typical indie/folk piece, it’s genius.