"Villain (I'll Stick Around)," the lush, creepy eighth song on Lost in the Trees' A Church That Fits Our Needs, opens with spoken word. "Is there anything you need in your life that you don't have?" a woman asks before singer Ari Picker enters with his most fragile, quavering vocal. The fuzz-drenched voice is that of Picker's mother. Her battle with depression dominates the narrative of Lost in the Trees' debut, All Alone in an Empty House. On this follow-up, Picker reckons with her subsequent suicide, digging deeper into her fractured psyche and speculating passionately as to where his mom may have gone in the afterlife.
The narrative demands much from this expressive, orchestrally minded six-piece. Empty House had been grounded into the specifics of Picker's life. The lyrics on Church are more abstract in every way, as Picker grabs for specks of meaning amid his incredible grief. Smartly, the band opts for a darker, more art-rock approach.
Stray elements like the snippet at the top of "Villain" flit in and out, giving the record both a personal touch and an otherworldly feel. Cascading, distorted guitar duets with ethereal female vocals at the beginning of "Red" before the song gets swept up in sepia-toned strings. Here, the passionate sonics shine just as brightly as Picker's pained words. "This Dead Bird is Beautiful" finds Picker at his most poetic. "A golden armored sky will carry her," he sings over stark acoustic strums. "But I'll always have her eyes." Grief is seldom so profound, let alone beautiful.