A Wave of Golden Things, Tall Tall Trees’ fourth studio album, finds multi-instrumentalist Mike Savino pushing his pseudonymous songwriting project beyond previous boundaries. Originally moving to NYC in the early 2000s as a bassist with an eye on the city’s vibrant jazz and experimental scene, a switch to banjo and a focus on songwriting produced the Tall Tall Trees instead. A debut release in 2009 and year of relentless touring has brought Savino to A Wave of Golden Things.
While Savino handles all Tall Tall Trees songwriting, production, recoding, and mixing, he does enlist a crew of accomplished players to fill out his sound. A Wave of Golden Things was mixed by Drew Vandenburg at Chase Park Transduction, Athens, GA and mastered by Joe Lambert at JLM Mastering, Jersey City, NJ. Players include: Mike Savino on banjo, bass (shreddy banj halen), guitar, piano, synths, casio, voice; Micah Thomas on drums and percussion; Michael Kammers on saxophones; Jackson Dulaney on pedal steel, Simon Thomas George on organ; Stephanie Morgan, Brie Capone, and Louisa Stanicoff provide vocals. A Wave of Golden Things was recorded at Franny’s Farm, Leicester, NC.
“The Wind, She Whispers” opens the record with a rooster crow that ignites the record’s fuse before exploding in the galloping assault of a straight forward Americana indie rocker that on a turn morphs into a Bela Fleck influenced new age banjo and percussive break down. As if written in multiple movements “The Wind, She Whispers” transforms yet again into a hollow synth and slow drum driven dirge before building to emotive heights reminiscent of experimental Beach Boys complete with sleigh bells and harmonies. The song ends by returning to its initial Americana indie band bedrock. “The Wind, She Whispers” is a tour de force for the first five minutes of the record, setting the bar high for what’s to follow.
“Expectations” builds tension over a bevy of anxious banjo and a slow-but-steady snare march. “I’m giving up on my expectations, let them go and see where it takes us, I got the time and I don’t mind waiting, just tired of anticipating,” declares Savino as he finds possibilities and peace beyond the anxious expectations that dominate humans’ focus on the tomorrow. Like a New Year’s resolution, Savino sings, “so show me how dance and have a little fun, I know I’ve been weighing on everyone, but it’s a new day, I’m changing my ways, I don’t wanna do it no more.” The problem with expectation though is even though you can give them up other people will still lay them on you. Almost as an answer to this conundrum, Savino immediately answers with “Happy Birthday in Jail,” an infectiously joyous tune with Caribbean rhythms that finds release in finding rock bottom. “Why can’t it wait until tomorrow?” Savino repeatedly pines.
He continues his questioning on “Ask Me Again”; “Why’s it gotta be so hard? Why’s it gotta be so hard?” he asks repeatedly until the words transmute into a mantra. “Seven Shades of Blue” presents a sonic shift by leaning hard on a chopped anger electric guitar before leaving the angst behind in favor of a whistle directed ditty before returning to the original motif. Savino bounces between these two seemingly disparate sonic realms before descending into an ominous nah nah nah finish with the ease of a master arranger.
A Wave of Golden Things finds Tall Tall Trees’ Savino continuing to build a unique catalogue of simultaneously inviting and unexpected sonic adventures. At once reflective and brooding as well as open and heartfelt, A Wave of Golden Things searches for light in dark times. As synths rise, a closing promise finishes the record, “a wave of golden things, a wave of golden things, it waits for you.” https://www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com/products/a-wave-of-golden-things
Review by H.R.Gertner