Thurston Moore's first solo endeavor since 1995's Psychic Hearts will allow the noise police to stay away. The SONIC YOUTH ringleader goes at it acoustically, far from his customary cacophonic experimentation, forming a venturesome trio with the FLEETING SKIES' Samara Lubelski (violin) and SY's Steve Shelly (drums) and giving his lyrical verve the latitude it deserves. There's a euphonious, near pop-like palpability to tracks like "Frozen Guitar," "Fri/end," and "Honest James," the latter spurred on by the vocals of Christina Carter (THE CHARALAMBIDES) and a guitar intro pawned from the Byrds' "Feel a Whole Lot Better." The isolation of the quieter songs allows Moore's voice to flicker on lines such as "The pearl meets light/And the light gets lost" in the numbing "Silver Blue," or in "The Shape Is in a Trance," where he reveals "I'm not the one they called/But I showed up anyway." So did Dinosaur Jr's J. Mascis, whose notorious guitar heightens the volume on matching instrumentals: the daunting "American Coffin" and the six-minute title song, which ends bluntly before a final hidden track featuring a 13-year-old Moore making inordinate sounds with scissors, coins, and an aerosol can.
Trees Outside the Academy is, in fact, a song-based album - and they're good songs, too. Rather Ripped had whistle-clean guitar lines and minimal melodies - the noise had lifted to reveal Sonic Youth still picking out sharp hooks, with songcraft as sparkling as ever. Those pop songs were a good place for them to return to for inspiration - they gave the band a form (rather than void) to play around with - and Trees takes up a similar challenge: What can a guy like Thurston Moore do with the bare, noiseless architecture of an acoustic guitar and verse-chorus-verse structures? - Pitchfork5/5