Just under two years ago, Tim Showalter released Hard Love, his fifth album under the Strand Of Oaks moniker. It was the successor to his 2014 breakthrough HEAL, and as such came with a lot of pressure, the weight of following up your most acclaimed and scrutinized career turning point yet. The years that elapsed between the two were tumultuous, transformative — a journey partially catalogued in our 2017 cover story on Showalter — in many ways resulting in triumphant achievements with Hard Love, but also yielding an album that appeared to leave Showalter second-guessing and unsatisfied.
A year ago, he followed it with a sort of alternate-universe take of demos from an earlier Hard Love session, titled Harder Love. It could be taken as a line in the sand ending Hard Love and clearing way for the next chapter; it could be taken as an epilogue that would sit for a while as an artist ventured off to figure out exactly what it was they wanted to do next. But as it turns out, inspiration might have been a struggle for a moment, and then came flooding back: Today, Showalter’s announced the sixth Strand Of Oaks album. It’s called Eraserland and it’s out in March.
According to a press release, that Hard Love era left Showalter spent, questioning his role as a musician once more. During a retreat to the Jersey shore, he received an unexpected push in the right direction in the form of a call from My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel. (Oaks had opened for MMJ on a 2015 tour, one of the key chapters between HEAL and Hard Love.) There was an opening in which Broemel and his MMJ bandmates (sans frontman Jim James) would be available in Louisville, and they wanted to serve as Showalter’s backing band. It sparked a fruitful writing period for Showalter, who later went South to record the whole album with them. Eraserland also features guitar work from Jason Isbell on a track called “Moon Landing,” and guest vocals from Emma Ruth Rundle.
Here’s what Showalter had to say about the birth of the album:
When I was writing these songs, every day I would walk on the beach and I was completely alone and overwhelmed by fear … but then I realized how there really aren’t any rules for who you are, who you’ll become, or who you think you need to be. Eraserland is just that. It’s death to ego, and rebirth to anything or anyone you want to be.
“This project seemed to just fall together naturally,” Broemel, added about MMJ’s involvement. “I felt drawn to Tim’s positive energy and his albums … I threw it out there that I’d be happy to help in any way I could with the record.”
Along with the announcement, Showalter has shared lead single “Weird Ways.” Beyond being Eraserland’s opening track, it feels like an intro and mission statement for the album. “I don’t feel it anymore,” Showalter sings, delivering the first words of Eraserland. Yet rather than the hedonistic escapism that phrase might have signaled on Hard Love, it sounds like a revived sense of resolve, capturing that death and rebirth Showalter felt in making the album. It’s also a gorgeous, cathartic rock song: From that initial acoustic intro, a Springsteen-esque guitar chimes in, the band joins, and “Weird Ways” opens up into a weathered ballad that concludes with a passage that marries his disposition and MMJ’s playing perfectly while also marking one of Showalter’s prettiest refrains. Check it out below along with a video by David Boone.
01 “Weird Ways”
02 “Hyperspace Blues”
05 “Final Fires”
06 “Moon Landing”
08 “Wild And Willing”
10 “Forever Chords”
04/10 – Wilkes-Barre, PA @ FM Kirby Center
04/11 – Washington, DC @ U Street Music Hall
04/12 – Durham, NC @ Motorco Music Hall
04/13 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
04/14 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn
04/16 – Austin, TX @ Antone’s
04/17 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links
04/19 – Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
04/20 – Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
04/22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom
04/23 – San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
04/25 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
04/26 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
04/27 – Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret
04/28 – Spokane, WA @ The Bartlett
05/01 – Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club
05/02 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
05/03 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
05/04 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Hi-Fi
05/06 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
05/07 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
05/08 – Boston, MA @ Sinclair
05/09 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg
05/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
05/24 – Berlin, Germany @ Privatclub
05/25 – Utrecht, Netherlands @ TivoliVredenburg
05/26 – Antwerp, Belgium @ TRIX
05/27 – London, UK @ Omeara
Eraserland is out 3/22 via Dead Oceans.