The idea of using music to heal oneself as well as a way to pay tribute to a lost loved one is nothing new. But the tragedy that inspired Lost In the Trees’ album, A Church That Fits Our Needs, goes above and beyond the usual fare. It is a love letter from writer, composer, and band architect Ari Picker to his artist mother, Karen Shelton, who took her own life in 2009 upon returning home from Picker’s wedding. The work is a boldly honest tribute that is at once uplifting as it is heartbreaking.
Picker kept his mother’s picture, the same haunting photo that graces the album cover, above his desk as he wrote the lyrics for the album. In a press release for Church, Picker explains his main reason for the tribute: “I wanted to give her a space, in the music, to be, and to become all the things she didn’t get a chance to be when she was alive.”
It is a bold, creative move. In less talented hands, the project might have turned maudlin. But there is a wonderfully underlying optimism to this music, despite the tragic subject matter. Picker’s obvious love and admiration for his mother shine musically and lyrically throughout. His voice possesses a classic clarity; a pureness and honesty reminiscent of artists like Iron and Wine and the late Carl Wilson. Every line and each musical passage reflects his powerful affirmation that spiritually, his mother is not gone. In “Neither Here Nor There,” Picker asserts, “Golden armor/Nothing ever harmed her.” “Icy River,” a song about Shelton’s funeral, contains one of the work’s most powerful lines: “Icy river put your arms around my mother/I burned her body in the furnace/Till all that was left was her glory.”
Picker is a classically trained Berklee School of Music graduate who uses his talents on Church to provide a sonically rich background for his songs. They are a gorgeous array of lush melodies and grand orchestrations that lovingly serve to honor the memory of his mother.
Lost In the Trees’ A Church That Fits Our Needs is available on Anti Records.Powered by Sidelines