Rating: 7.5/10

When Tim Showalter began Strand of Oaks as a folk venture in the early 2010’s, he didn’t expect to hit it nearly as big as he did. By 2014, he had strayed away from the folk genre into folk rock, with his popular album “HEAL”. He struck gold once again in 2017 with his release of “Hard Love”, but when speaking of his most recent industry experience and music,  the artist said he thought that Strand of Oaks might be over. On the cover page of the band’s website, where Eraserland’s release is announced, sits the ominous title. “This record wasn’t supposed to be here.” While this may well be the last album from Strand of Oaks, the description promises nothing less than an exceptional journey to the end, with hope of a new beginning in the distance. Showalter attributes the album’s conception to a text from a friend, Carl Broemel, who currently plays guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone and sings backup vocals for the Louisville, Kentucky band My Morning Jacket. Showalter, the leading man himself, said that the songs written for Eraserland were everything he’d ever worked toward as an artist.

This album is everything a listener can ask for and more. On the band’s website, in a personal note from Tim himself, it reads: “These ten songs are about existing and continuing on, a testament to the hope that even if we feel like we are disappearing, there is that glimmer of light. You may not come out the same person you started as, but that’s okay.” This an extremely powerful and accurate description of Eraserland as a whole. In the album, listeners are able to hear what an album sounds like when the bright, shiny new years as a musician wear off and artists find themselves lost, unfulfilled, and searching for something more, something different, or maybe even meaning behind the music. The album sounds like a new sound for Strand of Oaks, a wonderfully folksy-rock sound with folk melodies & lyrics combined with complex guitar riffs. In the last lines of Tim’s personal note on the website, it states, “Welcome to Eraserland, where we can all start again.”

The band’s reflective, re energized, almost introspective sound can be seen in the lyrics of every song on the album. Two key tracks that showcase these lyrics are “Visions” and “Final Fires”. In “Visions”, Showalter speaks of his past years pursuing his musical career, and reflects on 2017, the year of  the release of his hit album “Hard Love”. This was a time when he was very burnt out and without passion for the music, and it can be seen through lyrics such as, “2017Tried its best to take the magic from me.”, where he alludes to his lack of interest in his career. In “Final Fires”, Tim expresses anxieties over this album and its songs, and in other songs states that what he was interested in two years ago is no longer what he wants to pursue. With this album, it seems as though he truly wants to reach the audience with the music he has been passionate about making- not the music that will get him hits and higher stardom. In “Final Fires”, he sings “They always want the next one to be bigger, nothing was changing, nothing was real,” and this lyric can be attributed to the fact that he was no longer making music for himself, he was making music based on what he thought his audience wanted to hear. This album was a refreshing new change from that.

If you’re looking for a new favorite folk rock album, look no further. With a variety of new sounds and lyrics to suit any occasion, Strand of Oaks’ “Eraserland” has something for everyone. Key tracks include “Ruby”, “Eraserland”, and “Visions”. The album is now available on all streaming platforms.