Timberwolf – Timberwolf Record Label: Independent
Release Date: February 1, 2012
Why is it that we like the things that we do?
That question pops into my head as I’m listening to “Eternal Sunshine”, the penultimate track on indie folk artist Timberwolf’s self-titled debut. I flip through my brain and think of my favorite works of art. Shows like my beloved Community. (Curse you, NBC!) Books like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief or Stephen King’s 11/23/63. Bands like 65daysofstatic (you’re allowed to groan if you’re sick of me fanboying about them). Sure, we get exposed to dozens, maybe even hundreds, of new things to watch, read, listen to, and talk about daily. But inevitably, we either integrate the things we like or gravitate back into the little cultures we create for ourselves.
What, objectively, makes those things so important—or so meaningful? Well…nothing, and that’s the beauty of it. For as much as we dissect things, with things like sales numbers, grades, and critical aggregate scores, designed to organize everything into neat lists so we can have some kind of standard, that’s never how things work on a personal level. Either something speaks to you or it doesn’t. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.
So if there’s anything to characterize Timberwolf, real name Samuel Tucker Young, by, it may be something as simple as his honesty. It takes a lot of character to get me interested in anything other than sound, usually—it’s just the way that my brain processes music. But by the second song, I was listening intently. By the third, I was wrapped completely into the story this guy was trying to tell, of envy and regret and a phone call that ended with him tricking his girlfriend into thinking her father was dead. And by the end, I had stopped mentally listing down phrases completely. That’s not the power of a hook; it’s the power of letting everything go and laying your soul bare.
The songs here are about one of the most commonly mined sources of lyrical content ever; a relationship. Yet the words here are earnestly and wittily written, packed with imagery, declarations, and one-off reflections on the feelings we all experience at one time or another. Admirably, they don’t shy away from twisting knives in wounds; “In The Background” can get a little hard to listen to as it lays the table completely bare, but it’s a rewarding perspective, and Young treats the content with both gravity and levity (the album as a whole is sprinkled with rare moments of humor that work due to their surprise factor). “Into The Woods” works both as a lament and a reassurance as it alternates calls of “It’s going to be okay” and “Just pull yourself together,” before pulling the two together as despair and hope become indistinguishable. All the while, the background has swelled up from a lone guitar to an army of strings and drums in harmony, suiting Young’s declarations perfectly. The refusal to sum up feelings into catchy platitudes or to simplify them to character beats makes them worth listening to;
There’s a deliberately Western tinge to the whole music, and it fits with the themes touched upon here: the effect is almost a little lonely. The production here enhances that feeling; the guitar takes prominence in most tracks, but the strings are also washed in a slightly somber color, the drums don’t pound so much as they thud gently, and the accompanying instruments are mostly kept at a distance. Young’s grasp of mood actually gives him more room to play with arrangements, such as an empathic harmonica solo on “When I Woke” and a female duet on “I’m Fine Without You”, the two voices echoing each other and flipping each other’s perspectives. He also dabbles a bit in other genres, mixing folksy ruminations with hip-hop bravado (and if you’re looking for the Western influence, look no further than the gunshot sampling found here) on finale “Winchester” and touching on orchestral grandiose in “Eternal Sunshine”. All in all, the experimentation done here by Young never feels superfluous but only serves to solidify his identity as a character and as a musician.
Since I’ve been struggling for a while to come up with a proper way to end this review (while “Winchester” plays over and over in my head), allow me to defer to a quote I’ve been chewing on ever since I heard it:
“While we often play the roles of villains and stereotypes to each other, it is always an illusion, shattered quickly by the briefest moment of honest connection.” –Dan Harmon
I want to connect with people. I want it incredibly badly. I struggle with it because we don’t understand each other all the time, and we don’t always respect that disconnect, but I will get back up and try again. Because it’s worth the risk. It’s worth the pain of reaching out and not getting there the first try.
That’s the message that is reaffirmed every time I listen to an album like this one. It makes me feel, for one brief second, that if I can connect with the person who made this and put it up to be heard, that I am capable of anything. Maybe there’s still a shot.
Random plug: If any of you guys are interested in getting recommendations to awesome free indie music, come swing by wasfuersohr.blogspot.com! We cover a legion of different genres and artists, so no matter what your tastes, I hope you’ll find something you like.