In her essay "On Keeping a Notebook," Joan Didion describes diarists as "children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss." Of course, she's talking about herself. But she could just as well be talking about Ari Picker, Lost in the Trees mastermind and ex-member of the Never, whose music is uncommonly elegiac for a young man.
Sad boys with guitars are usually sad about girls, but Picker's harder to pin down. He's a young musician who doesn't like to tour. He records for local indie label Trekky and sings like Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard, but he studies at Boston's Berklee College of Music. He doesn't even follow indie rock. He's an admitted control freak who finds himself embroiled in numerous collaborative efforts, from soundtracks to ballet scores.
His music is just as contradictory: He couches his sorrowful lyrics in cloying pop-folk with sprightly orchestral flourishes and cinematic flair. No surprise, then, that his broadly stroked lyrics are rooted in something more substantial than romantic heartache. "This record hints at extreme childhood stuff," he confides. "I'm doing this to get it out into the open."
At 25, Picker is at the right age for settling the emotional debts we all accrue in childhood, and Time Taunts Me, a new Lost in the Trees EP that employs a revolving cast of Berklee players, is obliquely taken up with Picker's relationship with his parents. "My father walked into the room one day and told me that he was really horrified of dying," Picker states flatly. "He's pushing 70 and is carrying a lot of guilt with him. I don't feel like he can relieve himself of that guilt and is going to go to his deathbed with it, which I find scary and fascinating at the same time."
If Picker's looking for some sort of redemption though this honesty, he's found it in at least one sense: The difficult process of reconciliation has seldom sounded so sweet.
Lost in the Trees celebrates the release of Time Taunts Me with a show at Chapel Hill's Blend Thursday, March 22, at 9:30 p.m. Opening are The Strugglers, The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers and Josh Kimbrough. Lost in the Trees also plays Bickett Gallery Friday, March 23 with CinemaSophia, at 8:30 p.m.