Click to hear: “Over & Under & Over”
Sunlight in Architecture is 10 songs by Tree By Leaf singer/guitarist/songwriter Garrett Soucy produced by Andrew “Anny” Luckless, a fellow musician from up Belfast way.
What’s it sound like? Image the next Ray LaMontagne album produced by Dean Ween.
Yup, this is a match made in heaven, perhaps literally.
Tree By Leaf has evolved over the past several years from a hip-Christian folk trio into more of an alt-country act (they recently added a drummer — heresy!). Luckless has made three solo albums of comic pop about werewolves, Buddhist vampires, moon men and the like (available, and highly recommended, for free listening and download at luckless.net).
Sunlight in Architecture is a good introduction to Soucy for those who, like this reviewer, find most folk and non-rockin’ roots music deathly boring. Thanks to Luckless’ touch, indie-rockers, alt-folk freaks, roots-music purists and the ’CLZ crowd will find this release equally enjoyable. That’s quite an accomplishment.
Soucy is a major talent. As a singer, guitarist and songwriter, he’s on par with LaMontagne in my book and many others’. This project probably won’t be the one to break him onto the national scene, but as Soucy might say, we live in a fallen world.
Sunlight is poppy and profound. Luckless dresses up Soucy’s acoustic compositions will all manner of backing vocals and off-the-wall electric instrumentation (Gospel-country, meet Casio), but the songwriter hasn’t stooped to silliness to accommodate. His mythic-poetic lyrics still mix Christian allusions with snippets of stories about losers and strivers, faith and doubt, though there are welcome flashes of humor here, too.
“Back Off Amigo” is a particularly impressive piece of songwriting — the sad-crazy ramblings of an old woman on her death bed woven into a folk song that Luckless lovingly drenches with swelling strings and other orchestral effects.
On “Wretched Son,” it sounds at first like Soucy’s wife and Tree By Leaf bandmate Siiri is on backing vocals, then you start thinking it’s Soucy himself or just Luckless and his vocal tricks, but the pleasure comes when you realize it doesn’t matter. This is a gorgeous, haunting song.
“Into the Tiger’s Tooth” gets two treatments: first as a whooping Gospel-country send-up, then as a down-tempo, tear-in-your-beer ballad complete with Cashian spoken passage: “When she calls and she’s wrong for you / When she dials, she knows that you’re there / 378-7798 / 54 times in a row.”
The fuzz-bass driven “Overstate the Obvious” is really catchy, as is the Casio-inflected “Allegory of the Name,” but Sunlight blossoms into full pop glory at the end, on the closer “Over & Under & Over.” I’m willing to bet this is the first time Soucy has referred to one of his songs as a “jam.”
The more Soucy lightens up lyrically and stretches out musically, the better his music gets. It’s pretty damn great right now.
Sunlight in Architecture isn’t gigging, per se, but Tree By Leaf plays Space Gallery on Fri., Aug. 29, opening for Roy Davis & The Dregs. For more on the project, visit sunlightinarchitecture.com.