There’s something about Autumn Electric’s Album, Make Me a Tree, that is organic, authentic, and graceful–maybe it’s the potent songwriting and harmony between lead singer, Michael Trew, and back-up singer, Naomi Smith; or the overall mellow, sometimes lively, tone of the record; or maybe it’s the band’s adroit use of the harmonica, accordion, flute, piano, and saw, yes, the same tool used to cut wood—whatever it is, though, it feels right.
The music in the Seattle-based indie-rock band is far from simplistic. Layers of serene vocals, poetic lyrics, and skillfully utilized instruments blanket the ten-song album, creating a product that never appears tiresome. Even when the album feels like it is ready to sedate the listener into a melodic, musical coma, it casually injects just enough adrenaline to keep its audience alive and off balance.
Slick guitar lines and pleasant vocals open the album with the catchy, likeable, and upbeat “Astoria.” Early on, it is recognizable that Trew and Smith have an undeniable chemistry when it comes to feeding off their vocal talents as they follow up with “Raccoons.” This is one of the strongest songs on the album as it masterfully paints a scenic view of a world outside of busy city living.
Three songs in, “Black Shrouds,” probably their most radio-friendly song, follows as another pleaser. Don’t be fooled by the infectious up-tempo of the song though; the lyrics are just as contagious: “You woke up, climbed into your painting van, 6 or 7 days a week,” sings Trew, “You call it a living, but no one saw you dying.”
It is only when Make Me a Tree is near the mid point where the album takes an interesting turn. On “Harold,” the band promotes Smith as the lead and Trew as the back up. The absence of Trew as the frontman makes the song feel out of place, but it is easily forgiven, as the following songs, “Indian Princess” and “Icicle Valley,” are both equally enjoyable.
Make Me a Tree is, according to Autumn Electric’s press kit, a story about working through the death of a loved one. “It wasn’t right for you to go and leave me in this world alone,” croons Trew in “Spaghetti Western, “You know how much I love you, brother.” If the story of overcoming a loss isn’t apparent through Trew’s lyrics, then the musical vibe of the album speaks volumes for it is a roller coaster, moving from one mood to the next.
Make Me a Tree sets the precedent of the sound Autumn Electric should continue to personify—it’s rich, full of life, and real—everything a band can ask for. What Autumn Electric may lack in commercial appeal, they more than make up for in musical composition, strong lyrics, and a one-of-a-kind sound. Even their longer songs, “Icicle Valley” and “Spaghetti Western,” which both stretch over seven minutes, never induce the feeling of pressing the fast forward button as effective transitions, instrument solos, and soothing vocals keep them alive. Make me a Tree is an album that comes from a group of artists that respect the art of music, and I tip my hat to them. Kudos.
You can stream and purchase Make Me a Tree for free here. Half of the proceeds go to The Healing Center and Grief Place in Wenatchee, Washington.
Songs to look out for: “Astoria,” “Racoons,” “Black Shroud,” “East of the Mountains,” “Spaghetti Western.”