Friday, February 14, 2014

The Evergreen Trio – Lift Up Your Voice (2001)

So after listening to The Evergreen Trio’s Lift Up Your Voice about six or seven consecutive times at work this past week, a really disturbing calm settled over me. I found myself at work, daydreaming about driving out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and the only sounds around me would be the sound of Lift Up Your Voice playing in my car. Once I got to the cabin, I'd walk inside, put this EP on repeat, and curl up in a ball and cry by myself for days. Once again, I'm wrought to bring up the age-old question, "Why is it that the most stripped-down performances always seem to garner the most emotional responses?" The concept behind this CD is so amazingly simple that a monkey could have pulled it off, provided, that is, that the monkey could play an acoustic guitar. Over the course of winter 2000-2001, Joe Reina stepped out onto a cold back porch with an acoustic guitar a few times. Nick Alberts was there with a tape recorder, and after a small delay for tape transfers, seven extraordinarily atmospheric and bare-bones tracks were released as Lift Up Your Voice.
Headphone listening was required at least once before I could claim to even partially "know" this disc, as the back porch atmosphere plays into the mix with the subtle sounds of the wind and the occasional vehicle passing on a nearby road. The whole thing sounds so terribly honest, like Reina was just walking outside with his guitar and exposing everything about himself to the cold air, daring nature or anything else to challenge his feelings.
This sense shines through brightest during the second and third tracks on the disc. "My Token Boy" combines a delicate two string guitar cadence with Reina's restrained voice for a dazzling effect. The highlight here has to be Reina's practically tear-jearking Greg Dulli-esque "Ooooooooo’s" before the song ends on a more traditional strummed-chords note. "Bernadette" follows with an almost bluesy lick that practically carries Reina's faltering voice. The track is most powerful when Reina’s voice seems to soar on an unseen strength before almost cracking and breaking down only seconds later.
Lift Up Your Voice may have been recorded in the dead of winter, and the mix here is (intentionally) thin (even for a simple guitar-and-voice recording), but this EP still carries a lot of warmth that can be found under the right listening conditions. I figure this disc will be great for my next big self-reflective phase, but it would work just as well as a quiet, lulling soundtrack for this winter's long, cold snowy nights. Recommended.
Delusions Of Adequacy

"Recorded on a back porch in early 2001, 'Lift Up Your Voice", which is the Evergreen Trio's second full length, is stripped down to just a voice and acoustic guitar. These seven songs bring to mind a time when songs were stories, sung and passed along through the times. With this essentially being a field recording, you get a sense of time and space, hearing the sounds of crickets and even trucks passing by on the highway. All of these circumstances lead to a barren and personal record that is new, yet hauntingly familiar."
The paragraph above, along with the fledgling label's address and a photo of a rather grizzly-looking young man, composes the entirety of this CD's promotional materials. A glance at the sparse packaging yields little additional information other than the name of the grizzly young man in question, Joe Reina. The music contained is similarly sparse--a few strummed chords and a distant voice gently crooning about something that might actually be meaningful if we could hear it over the tape hiss.
The Evergreen Trio takes the notion of "less is more" to the extreme, and as an unfortunate result, some otherwise beautiful melodies are lost under a thick cloud of "lo-fi" artistic posturing, and an even thicker cloud of irritating tape hiss. Mr. Reina would be best advised to leave the minimalist meandering to more capable musicians, and try giving his promising songs the development and production they so desperately need.
D. Pennepali

The Evergreen Trio – Lift Up Your Voice (2001) 224kbps

The Evergreen Trio - For All Intents & Purposes (2000)

The Evergreen Trio are an indie rock/emo band from Rockford, IL active in the late 90’s. The Evergreen Trio play a brand of midwestern emo-style rock with sincerity and without apology. Think of the melodic guitar styles of Mineral with off-kilter vocals of Davey Von Bohlen and the changing rhythm of Joan of Arc. Then throw in some keyboards and samplings. All with tight, immaculate performance and unabashed sincerity and honesty.

It isn't too often when a song title qualifies as a beautiful line of poetry. It's more rare when such a song as "These Gas Station Roses Should Tell You Something" is equally beautiful on a musical level. Here, on their first track, the Evergreen Trio lay the blueprint for what they deliver best: sincere, emo-packed vocals and strong melodies that offer both New Order-like guitars and heavy dollops of piano. This approach is continued on songs like "This Day/We've" and the rainy day "Cobblestones & Embassies", while another, equally prominent side of the band shows them to have affinity with Antarctica ("Burt Bacharach Without Dreaming", "Petals and Ashes"), where keyboards replace the piano and create a more new-wavey feel. In each case, they sound more musically exciting than most acts now playing, and it's a slight shame they didn't have the keyboards and piano infiltrate the whole album. By minimizing those touches near the end, on songs like "Will You Wake Me" and "O' This Happiest Day", you get to appreciate the gloss of "electronics" even more, as it shows the Evergreen Trio just an ebony and ivory away from being a merely decent emo-rock group.

Someone overheard me listening to this disc and said "this sounds like the Alkaline Trio without distortion and slowed down." I said "ouch." They have a whole different kind of creativity, different intent and purpose in their music. More of a midwestern town reality, not the anger, perhaps the frustration but willing to take the time needed in each song to explain what they mean in a way that they at least can understand. The songs aren’t spilled/spelled out for just anyone and therefore can add meaning for everyone if they take the time to listen.
The sound effects and drum machines add an aspect of electronica to the otherwise emo sound and the only thing that could possibly pin them to The Alkaline Trio is the style of vocals which are also not unlike those of Mineral. At times I even feel as though I’m listening to a piece of the Red House Painters faster paced songs. The instruments are tight except for an occasional intentional looseness to allow space for a personal interpretation.
This album is a late summer listener. Days are just beginning to get shorter, the grass needs to be mowed a couple more times before the leaves are in the way. There is still playing to be done while waiting for the autumn to approach and with it bring a chill and a whole new emotion to the music.
JJ Hamon

Everyone is using keyboards and other electronic elements these days. It gets so a band that uses traditional guitar/bass/drums sounds incomplete, doesn't it? While using these new-fangled elements to mix things up isn't a bad thing, most bands don't do it appropriately. The Evergreen Trio, however, puts the focus on their traditional rock instrumentation first and uses electronic elements as backing noise or supporting elements. And they do it very well. You've probably guessed from the band name that I'm going to use the word emo in this review. The Evergreen Trio play a brand of midwestern emo-style rock that I still can't get enough of, especially when done sincerely and without apology. Think the melodic guitar styles of Mineral with off-kilter vocals ala Davey Von Bohlen and the changing rhythm of Joan of Arc. Then throw in some keyboards and samplings and couple it all with tight, immaculate performance and unabashed sincerity and honesty. That's why I love this so much. Turn the volume up as "These Gas State Roses Should Tell You Something" starts off quiet, with soft piano and melodic guitar over a low hum of noise. This lengthy song flows along at a slower pace, more pretty than rocking but putting most of the emphasis on the vocals, which really do hit some great high notes. "Cobblestone & Embassies" definitely has more of a Joan of Arc feel to it, especially in the lead and backing vocals, but it has a much more consistent and pop-style flow to it, with great percussion. The keyboards come in to provide a more hushed and contemplative mood on "Petals & Ashes," and it flows seemlessly into the oddly named "Burt Bacharach Without Dreaming." The percussion on "Dance, Academy, Dance!" makes this song, combining traditional drums and synthesized drums with some great guitar and just enough of a pop feel. This is definitely my favorite here, especially as the vocals soar. "A Few Less Sour" is probably the most intense song here, with the percussion really turning things up over a more underscored guitar line. The vocals literally shine on "O' This Happiest Day," soaring above everything and really driving this song. But the Mineral-esque guitars really drive the closer, "Will You Wake Me?" I admit it - I love this band, and I love their style. This brand of music reminds me why I fell in love with that post-hardcore melodic style called emo. It's all about the melodic guitar, the wonderful, flowing songs, the sincerity and honesty. And The Evergreen Trio are probably the best new emo band I've heard in so long. Sure, there are elements of a lot of other bands you're probably already sick of here, but this band puts them together in a way that's fresh and wonderful.
Delusions Of Adequacy

Everyone needs to own a CD like this. Not necessarily this one in particular, but one like this. The Evergreen Trio [who actually have 5 members -- try explaining that one] play extremely heartfelt, emotional, low-fi indie rock. And they play it extremely well. That's not supposed to mean their songs are extremely intricate [they're not] or they're ridiculously well-produced [they're not] or even that their music is all that groundbreaking [it's not], but that's where my first sentence ties back in: everyone needs to own a CD like this. The CD that's perfect for that lazy weekend morning in your room; the CD that just fits for a long, potentially dreary car ride; the CD that makes you think about that special person and just why they're so special. These boys manage to overcome every potential stereotype about their genre and really put out a solid first CD. I advise you to all watch out for The Evergreen Trio.