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Ear to the Ground: Strand of Oaks’ “Goshen ’97”

This coming-of-age anthem about home recording and Casio keyboards features a raging solo from the one and only J Mascis.

What’s not to like about Strand of Oaks’ second album? It pulls from the indie folk-pop perfection of Fleet Foxes, the timeless tones of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the sonic orchestrations of Phosphorescent, and the guitar solos of Dinosaur Jr.

Actually, that happens to be J Mascis playing the blisteringly loud solos on “Goshen ’97”—the opening song from Strand of Oaks’ album Heal. Frontman/songwriter Timothy Showalter pens the kind of nostalgic lyrics that appeal to everyone—but especially to musicians. In “Goshen ’97,” he harks back to his humble, college-town beginnings in Indiana, with an endearing narrative that touches on living in a basement, buying used Casio keyboards with his friend, finding his dad’s old tape machine, and singing Smashing Pumpkins in the mirror. But the clincher is the chorus: “"I was lonely, but I was having fun."

Anyone who remembers that first experience of cloistering themselves in their bedroom to learn how to lay down that first overdub—whether via a Tascam 4-track or Garage Band—knows all too well that home-recording is one of the best ways to turn crippling loneliness into an epic one-person party. Strand of Oaks just turned it into an anthem.