My Tree

From the album’s initial phrase “I saw you standing there, amongst the flowers” to its final “it’s over now,” My Tree’s new album Where the Grace Is constantly examines the tension between enjoying the present moment and participating in the allied fight for justice in the chaos that is 21st century America. The ten tracks on Where the Grace Is shine via overflowing layered textures and illusory rhythms that delight in the ecstasy of the everyday moment, while also reckoning with tragedies of today, such as the Pulse Nightclub Shooting and the murder of Ahmaud Aubrey.

 Opener “Afterglow,” a stripped-down live studio take originally written as an introduction to “Clouds” from their last album, is a meditative preparation for the journey to come and a mindful return to their R&B-rich debut From Within (2014). Lead single “Liteshine” is a tribute to the power of the sun and impending global climate crisis. The track features a pulsing and hypnotic groove against a bed of synthesizers that transforms into a luxuriously free epilogue with the dizzying mantra “let the light shine.” Although “Country Glory” visualizes more universal political issues, others reflect the impact of specific events on a post-apocalyptic world.

“Our Land Oh” documents the massive grief that poured out of Davis after the Pulse Nightclub shooting of 2016. “I remember watching the news that day, bursting into tears,” she remembers. “As a little girl in Atlanta, I had two gay men in my life who were like fathers to me, they taught me how to love, they rejoiced to make music! They loved going to places like Pulse to let everything go, and the idea of targeting people like them was horrifying. I sat down to a forest of swirling thoughts, and recorded that rhythm at the end. I was so angry but wanted to remember the glistening hearts and love of everyone affected.” “View” taps into a kindred mode of thought that places identity and pronouns in an ecosystem of a bossa nova drum machine and climbing keyboard figures. 

Title track “Where The Grace Is” features emotional phrases set against the main drum beat along an elevating chord progression. The song began when the duo sat down to improvise in an effort to process the unjust murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The lyrics, written collectively, consider everyday activities that black Americans lack freedom to do, and how our system continues to ignore them. Hoffmann describes sister song “Run and Rag On” as “a commentary on the Reagan regime, which laid the groundwork for the modern version of Jim Crow, disenfranchising black Americans, and unjustly placing many into the prison system for things like low level drug offenses.” Chicago-based Rico Sisney (Sidewalk Chalk, House of Whales) expands the layers with original lyrics – the rivers of players and their actions eventually meet a sea of tender possibility within Davis’ vocals.  “Tell Me About It” pulls listeners into a related liberty at its close in a bouncy, supernatural space.

Collaboration remains central to the duo’s sounds, with many to acknowledge here. A slow, beat-heavy “Slogans” highlights additional production from Charles Gorcyznski / IVYASA and warm electric bass lines from Jed Lingat (Elise Testone, J. Hoard), who also appears on “Afterglow” and “Country Glory.” Brooklyn native David Frazier, Jr. (Sza, Gabriel Garzón-Montano) radiates power and sensitivity in his drumming, especially on the buoyant “One More Time.” Where the Grace Is dives more into electronic production than previous releases, with years of pre- and post-production utilized to refine this album. The live-band element was laid down at Selva Recording, the studio of British producer and DJ Will Holland, who makes music through The Quantic Soul Orchestra.

My Tree prefers hardware instruments to create their sounds, including drum machines like the LinnDrum and a smattering of analogue synthesizers all handpicked by Hoffmann, who performed the bulk of instrumentation and programmed all drum machines. The collaging of sounds expertly frame joyously soaring vocals from Davis. It’s a combination of sounds and lyrics that offers a dramatic view of reality sparkled with glistening hope. The compositional aspects, themes, and production choices bring forth an outward critical lens to examine the socio-politico-ecological landscape, all the while lovingly moving inward to an optimism-filled allyship.

 


My Tree by Lauren Desberg
My Tree by Lauren Desberg
My Tree by Lauren Desberg
IMAGES: To download, click above. Artist photos by Lauren Desberg.

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