Thurston Moore stepped outside of Sonic Youth in 1995 to record his solo-debut, Psychic Hearts. Though it’s often considered great, it certainly didn’t stray that far from the Sonic Youth sound. Twelve years and a shitload of noise discs later comes Trees Outside the Academy, the official follow-up to his solo debut, and uses it to explore his folkier inclinations.
Trees Outside the Academy feels like pulling on a thrift-store sweater: It’s somehow both new and familiar. The vibe emitted from the strums of Moore’s acoustic guitar is immensely comfortable. Though songs like “Frozen Gtr” and “Honest James” make it obvious that this is the same songwriter who planted the seed for much of the material on 2002’s Murray Street, there seems to be far less reliance on volume here. The album sounds like a bunch of great musicians hanging out and sporadically hitting the record button. And it is: Drum duties are handled by Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelly; Samara Lubelski of Ecstatic Peace’s MV/EE handles the violin; and Dinosaur Jr.’s axe-god J. Mascis shows up to prove that you have no idea how to play an electric guitar.
Ultimately, Trees Outside the Academy will most likely be remembered as Moore’s most personal solo album, not because he sang with anymore emotion than anything he did with Sonic Youth, but because within its twelve songs he tackled many facets of music that interest him. From the singer-songwriter fare, to the white noise of “Free Noise Among Friends,” to the solo piano performance of “American Coffin,” this is pure Thurston Moore.
The closing track is a recording of Moore at age thirteen, making noise in his bedroom. The last thing the one-day hero says is “Why am I doing this?” The answer is clear: He has to.
“Trees Outside the Academy” preview (video): http://www.ecstaticpeace.com/multimedia/thurston_web.mov