By Conner Jensen
After their studio debut in 2013, The Treetop Flyers are soaring back into the American music scene with their sophomore LP Palomino. The 5-piece band that constructed the sequel we have been longing for has certainly had their ups and downs over the past few years. With the loss of loved ones, as well as the departure of bassist Matthew Starritt, the group found themselves deconstructed and prepared to rebuild from the ashes. Palomino adapts a raw and reflective mood as the group recaps the hand fate has dealt to them. As you plug into this new album, the New-Age folk group straight out of London will take you soaring into your inner self.
With a waning synthesizer and an upbeat percussion line backing it, the album takes off with “You, Darling You.” String instruments follow closely behind, creating a relaxed, mildly paced yet strong beginning to the album. The vocals of Reid Morrison accompany this harmony to set the mood of the album as reflective and longing, with an undertone of passive acceptance. Much like the beginning of the song, a waning synthesizer remains as the primary sound as the harmony fades. The synthesizer begins to fade and, without skipping a beat, three explosive strums begin “Sleepless Nights.” Listeners will no doubt see some minor influences from the surf rock genre in the introduction of this song. Morrison’s unique voice continues to mix beautifully with the melody the group produces to further their overall theme of reflection. As the verse turns into the chorus, the harmony begins to drop slightly in tempo and allows the vocals to dominate until escalating into a showcase of both the musicians’ talent and the range of the lead singer. The mix of verses and instrumentals throughout this song is sure to have the listener dancing in their seat and hoping that Mary would also join them on the dance floor. The song ends with an ominous, almost robotic sounding synthesizer fading into a peaceful and ecliptic mix of guitar strumming and electronic sound effects that masterfully sets up “Lady Luck.”
This song takes a slower tempo than the previous songs, with a slow reverberating synthesizer backing the slow beat of the drum as the verse begins to take form. Shortly after, the harmony takes form with the strings and traditional piano join into the slow-paced jam. If the previous songs hadn’t established the overall mood that the group was hoping to project, this one slaps you in the face with it as the sense of longing is strengthened by the tempo of the work and the lyrics tell a story of a woman long ago. As the piano fades and muffled voices replace the melody, “Lady Luck” comes to a close. As the final muffled word is uttered, “It’s a Shame” begins with an electronic bass rift reminiscent of blues music, and the rest of the instruments match this precedent set by the bass, with the percussion adding in some tambourine for an extra kick. Unlike the previous songs where the chorus is sung by just one member, all the members join in for a refreshingly melodious sound that interjects the band’s unique flair into the genre that they appear to be taking after. This tale of separation sets a higher tempo than the previous song to enforce the passive acceptance that walks hand-in-hand with the longing reflection towards the past.
The tambourine continues to shake as the rest of the instruments fade and “Dance Through the Night” begins to take form. A guitar line that would make Santana proud introduces this work, but quickly becomes the side act as the vocals take the stage when the verse starts. However, this song is riddled with instrumentals with the guitar as the primary sound, so the beginning isn’t the only taste of that groovy sound you’re going to get. The instrumentals change throughout the song, giving each instrument their own time to shine. Halfway through the song the Santana-style rhythm begins to take over the original sound, then later reverting back to the original sound, bringing this song full circle and keeping the listener on their toes while jamming out. The song abruptly fades into “St. Andrews Cross,” which is only fitting due to the major contrast in the tempos. A slow-paced strumming of the guitar remains as the primary sound throughout this song as the vocals serenade the listener with a song of loss, showcasing the range of Morrison in a more organic fashion while also allowing the other members to show some of their talent in backing him that brings chills to the listener. The song closes with a capella singing of the chorus by the entire group and a final strum on the guitar to peacefully close this song.
The tempo is beginning to pick back up again, but at a gradual rate for “Falling Back.” Shakers accompany the usual assortment of instruments as they chime together to form a sound that combines the group’s unique folk sound with some of the classical rock sounds of the 70’s. This song takes a more self-reflective theme than the previous songs, which were looking back more so on events and people of the past. The beautiful blend of the instruments and the “oohs” and “aahs” of the backing members makes for a relaxing and meditative song that definitely should not be glossed over when skipping through tracks. The album maintains this slower tempo into the next song, “Fairytales and Lullabies.” The song begins with the strumming guitar being the primary background sound to the verse, and as the chorus approaches the remainder of the ensemble joins in, producing a sound that is true to the folk genre that the band identifies with. The song encompasses a tale of drastic changes, the acceptance of reality and the subsequent denouncement of fantasies.
A sustained piano chord closes “Fairytales and Lullabies” and opens into “31 Years,” one of the singles released off this album prior to release. The songs initial sound is dominated by percussion, but the guitar provides some flavor as it swings in and out to set up the verses. This song recollects a life, most likely recently lost, and the 31 years of friendship the individual provided for the singer, maintaining the theme of reflection that has been deeply embedded throughout every song so far. As the chorus begins, the tempo, initially fairly quick, picks up to add variation into the overall sound of this song. Throughout the song, tempo remains a candidate for change as it is slowed and sped up for emphasis as well as to maintain interest. The song stops abruptly as the final instrumental quickly turns into an ominous solo synthesizer setting the stage for the penultimate song, “Never Been as Hard.” As much as we’d all love the title to be innuendo, the song actually follows more internal and mature struggles of life in a slow-paced harmony true to the folk sound, with an extra touch of shakers and wood block to continue to differentiate from the crowd. The calm and strung out sound of this allows the listener to unwind and relax as the album begins to approach the end and your flight among the trees is coming close to touchdown. The ominous tinkering of a grand piano closes this song, and quickly transitions into a country-esque sound, “Wild Winds,” that will bring this album to a close. The variation of percussion tempo between verses and chorus uplift the listener as they see the end approaching them. The song reaches its turn halfway through, as the rest of the instruments fade and a grand piano becomes the solo sound, then the dominant sound while being accompanied by the ensemble at a slower tempo than initially set, soon escalating into a percussion solo before reverting back to the initial sound and tempo to close out the song.
Fans of the folk genre will be refreshed by this new take on the traditional sound that some may see as just becoming strung out and overdone. Palomino is a reflective trip through the past as well as the inter-being, landing on a note of hope. Once you take flight, you’ll never want to come down.