There are bands who cover old songs, and then there are bands who try their hand at reinventing one.
Oregon-based indie rock duo and Sub Pop signees The Helio Sequence formed in 1999, and have been to creating music that sounds too populated to only be two musicians ever since. We haven’t heard much from the duo since their latest self-titled release back in 2015, but after altering their creative process a bit, they’ve finally released new music, gracing fans with a revised version of Al Jolson and the Mills Brothers’ track “Down Among the Sheltering Palms.” However, the duo has renamed their version “Out Among the Sheltering Pines,” an homage to their Pacific Northwestern roots. The single comes off as gentle folk with a synthetic flavor, a small exercise in what they’ve learned since their last album. It’s not quite copied, but more like a modern approach to a myth.
The original, “Down Among the Sheltering Palms,” is a love song with little lyrical complexity to it, played up by a tropical, easy-going feel, and comical nuances punctuated throughout.
Helio Sequence’s “Pines” on the other hand features themes of wanderlust and grandeur, instead of casual flirtation, and becomes its own entity as a work more nostalgic than excited. Traces of its upbeat predecessor persist in an emphasis to establish a similar theme, yet one distinctive enough to still showcases the band’s adventurous, nature-loving roots. The song coalesces itself in a place and state of being that becomes the object of desire when there is an absence of another person. However, don’t mistake this for loneliness — “Pines” is nothing short of content, and it makes for truly easy listening.
From old to new, there is a story of how sound has evolved, how the public tastes and societal mood have shifted. “Out Among the Sheltering Pines” brings the same escapist mentality, but the specifics moved to a self-focused intimacy in place of a social one. Each speaks to different problems and different climates, neither superior to the other. When it comes down to it, it’s far more about the kind of company you are in the mood to keep.
“Out Among the Sheltering Pines” was released on September 13, 2017.