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Knitting Factory Presents

Tree River, Posture & The Grizzly, Smol Data

Events

Jul 28 Thu
Tree River, Posture & The Grizzly, Smol Data8:00 PM | Doors: 7:00 PM
361 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
All Ages
Tickets $12.00

Tree River

Brooklyn-based alt rock quartet Tree River are many things: unconventionally catchy; unequivocally loud; inventive songwriters. But the one thing that the band themselves find to be their defining feature is that they’re perfectionists. As vocalist/guitarist Trevor Friedman puts it, “Every single line, every single word, has had a conversation about it.” This level of care extends not just to the lyrics, but to the songwriting, the presentation, and everything about Tree River. This is a band that cares deeply about everything they do.
Tree River started taking its first steps in 2010, as an embryonic solo project of Friedman’s (hence the name, which is both a play on the name Trevor and evocative of the natural world-- a theme that would grow to be a central element of the band’s identity and lyrics as time went on). Slowly, Friedman’s best friend and fellow guitarist/vocalist Phil Cohen started to contribute-- pitching ideas for parts and arrangements, helping to flesh out lyrics and structures-- before eventually taking his place as the permanent other half of the project.
In the beginning of the partnership’s life, the songs grew out of Friedman’s abstract, stretchily metaphysical lyrics, and leaned more towards whispery textures, slow meditations, and freak-folk meanderings, all of which were captured on their 2014 effort Inward, which was recorded at the legendary Inner Ear in Washington, DC. However, with the addition of bassist Julie Rozansky, Tree River rolled into 2015 with a renewed sense of purpose and a radically reinvented approach to songwriting and performance. The band was playing live much more often, and the larger lineup and more collaborative atmosphere resulted in a bigger, heavy rock-oriented sound, which debuted in late 2016 with their second full-length, Dark Matter. Tree River had begun to evolve into something that wasn’t just new, it was reinvigorated-- harder, better, faster, stronger, and certainly altogether louder.
Entering a new era which began with recording their EP Garden in 2018, the band had finally come into its own. Not only had they brought new, powerful drummer Zac Pless into the fold, they were also recording with Kevin Dye of Gates, who Cohen and Friedman also agree to be essentially the fifth member of the band (“our Nigel Godrich figure”). The result is something completely its own-- the band’s appetite for influences is undoubtedly voracious, and yet it all comes out in a way that is wholly singular.
While Garden was a significant and impressive effort in and of itself, Tree River is gearing up to unleash their mammoth third LP Time Being in March 2022, with the backing of famed indie label Big Scary Monsters. Once again produced and mixed by Dye, the material on Time Being is a natural step forward for Tree River, and yet it’s even more visceral and uniquely catchy than anything they’ve released before. All of the music on the album had been written by March of 2020, but the lyrics were crafted over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the exploration of characteristically dark and yet profoundly human themes.
These intense and intimate subjects are married to song constructs that are both clever and ambitious: “Same Blood,” which tackles the death of Cohen’s mother, is structured along the lines of the five-stage grieving process, and so it starts out jittery and anxious before erupting into a climax that effortlessly fuses soaring and melancholy; the Rozansky-led “Catalyst” is a moody, widescreen riffer that functions as a tete-a-tete response to the toxic relationship conversation the band had previously started in Garden’s “Pearl.” All the while, Pless’s commanding yet expressive drumming propels and guides the listener through each emotion.
And yet, despite all the heavy subject matter, the album never forgets how to be listenable. Cohen remarks that the band now writes to “engage, rather than impress,” and that fluid economy of motion rears its head in the album’s many irrepressible hooks and gorgeous melodies. The effervescent, warm and welcoming “Thought Bubbles” flies high on the back of a fantastically simple yet deliriously addictive guitar line, while tender, falsetto-laden standout “Homesick” takes a small instrumental break to show off Rozansky’s lithe and deeply melodic bass skills. Elsewhere, “Patient”-- about Friedman’s experience of becoming a therapist-- manages to channel the comforting, cozy energy of summer’s transition into fall, functioning as a perfect deep cut in response to immediate hits like the Max Bemis-assisted pop-punk confection “Crossroading.”
Even the album’s most chaotic and violent song-- the penultimate track “Little Ripper,” which pivots from a rollicking post-hardcore verse into an arch, gothic bridge complete with screams courtesy of Dye-- still has those trace elements of comfort and accessibility. Other songs, like the opening sucker-punch of “Journey Proud” and “Laughing With,” luxuriate in both their clever lyrical impulses and their infectious power-pop chops. And of course, the album climaxes with “Prospect Park,” a song with a chorus as big as its heart and a triumphant riff that feels like a victory lap around the album’s succinct success.
Time Being is a real coming-of-age for Tree River-- if Garden was their bar mitzvah, then Time Being is when they really earn the title of mensch. Dense, smartly-written, and powerful, Tree River have presented us with a future classic that rolls together universal fears, achingly specific anxieties, and an optimistic, all-inclusive sense of hope, all sitting in a picture-perfect package. Don’t be surprised as they float higher and higher above the tree line-- it’s only natural.
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