Scattered Trees – Sympathy Album Review

Listening to Scattered Trees’ latest album, Sympathy, has been a curious experience for me. The same disc, under different settings and different circumstances, has been at times nerve-wracking and at times wonderful.

Just now, I have awoken with the third track from Sympathy echoing in my head, the words, “Everyday, you love, then you leave me/ We’ll be the only ones/ We’ll be the only ones to remember…” playing on repeat. These nostalgic words comprise nearly the lyrical totality of “Love And Leave,” but the simplicity works, its pop mechanics doing their part to captivate, its captivation enough to bound me out of bed to write about it.

Listen to “Four Days Straight” – DOWNLOAD MP3

In theory, the entire Sympathy album works on a “love and leave” level. It is wonderful when I allow myself to take its pop songwriting purity for what it is; it is nerve-wracking when I turn music critic and analyze every implicit action. This album feels wonderful, but in a way that might make one feel guilty — like ’90s alternative rock feels wonderful, but makes one feel guilty. Take some electronic-minded influences and vibes from bands like The Postal Service, and you have a fair summation of Scattered Trees.

That description may sound absolutely horrible on paper, but again, this is the dilemma.

Do we not still enjoy Third Eye Blind and The Postal Service immensely when they emerge ironically from their stale depths? The answer is a resigned, “Godammit, yes, we do!” though we may try to shield our enjoyment beneath an exaggerated facade of acceptance. We’ve been told to be ashamed of these things, by the media and by “maturity,” and so we are… but the songwriting catchiness of these creations is undeniable, even years after the fact, and far beyond irony.

Such, then, is the case with Scattered Trees. I could nitpick about how the chorus of “Four Days Straight” has gang vocals that are poppy to the point of cheesiness, or how the verse from “A Conversation About Death On New Years Eve” may in fact bear similarity to parts of Give Up, but what does it even matter, anyway? Far be it from me to critically trod down an album that has the impetus to lodge itself into my brain with such ferocity.

Sympathy sounds like a self-aware, finely-crafted disc that inherently showcases the band’s collective years of influence. Whether those influences are acceptable or deplorable is up to you, but in my mind, good pop music is often about much more than technical analysis; it’s about the way it makes you feel.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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