Lost in the Trees are an orchestral-folk band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who found a big place in my heart a couple years ago. Their first big release, All Alone in an Empty House, came out in 2010 on Anti- Records (I wrote about it here and here), and it’s beautiful and heartbreaking and hopeful. That album’s follow-up is out today; it’s called A Church That Fits Our Needs and in some ways it follows the torn-family narrative frontman Ari Picker started with Empty House, this time addressing his mother’s 2009 suicide. The subject matter is dark, as is some of the music that accompanies it — but like the last one, it’s just as much about the suffering as the recovery.
Because Lost in the Trees’ music is so emotional and ultimately about hope and healing, last fall I made a sweet potato corn chowder inspired by their music; comforting because soup has magic healing powers, and sweet potatoes and corn for their southern roots. It’s easily one of my favorite dishes I’ve made — for this blog or otherwise. Someone in the band posted the soup on the band’s Facebook page and said they were going to try it out — and when I met them last month, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Emma Nadeau said she’s made it several times, at least a couple of which have fallen on band-practice days (“so now they think I make it every day,” she told me).
The band was in town last month for a week of press and a few shows, culminating in a run-through of the entire new album at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, and thanks to what started as a Twitter back-and-forth about New York restaurants, I met up with them at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday, just before they headed back south for a short break before a five-and-a-half-week tour. We went to Veselka, the famed East Village Ukranian diner, where we drank copious amounts of coffee, chowed down on potato pancakes and crepes, and chatted about some food stuff. [All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo. It’s quite obvious that we were all extremely awake.]
One of my favorite musical discoveries last year was Lost in the Trees, a classical-inspired folk group from North Carolina. Their most recent album All Alone in an Empty House is sad and beautiful, telling the somewhat autobiographical story of frontman Ari Picker’s family. There’s death, fighting, pain and depression, but also hope. It’s a warm, comforting album perfect for fall, and perfect for healing (this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is likely going to be a theme with most fall music featured here). In the album’s centerpiece, “Fireplace,” the shouted chorus goes, “So surround yourself with good people/ I know it’s painful but we can stand.”
I chose soup because, well, as far as I’m concerned, soup heals everything. But it’s also an ideal dish for big gatherings/communal eating in general: sharing with other people and being together in both good and not-so-good times. As for the flavor, the sweet potatoes and corn are for the band’s southern roots and comfort food in general. (Sidenote: While thinking about corn, autumn, and being “lost in” anything, I couldn’t help but remember the time my cousin and I got lost in a cornfield in northern Michigan when we were toddlers.)
This is easily one of my favorite soups I have ever made; it’s sweet and savory, and can be eaten warm or cold (I prefer it warm, but a friend at work loved it cold). However you eat it, though, I can tell you this stuff was amazing. I said soup is great for sharing, and this one was tasted by my roommates, my friend Amy (who took the accompanying photos), and three coworkers — and they all approved. This soup requires quite a bit of veggie prep work, but it’s well worth it, I promise.
Sugar cookies with buttercream and royal icing (Recipe below)
No CALL ME’s or HUGS & KISSES here! Each cookie has a different love-themed song title. I know they’re not all mushy love songs, but it’s more based on the titles than the lyrics…To make these even more precious, I had help from the cutest music-biz couple I know: Heidi Greenwood and Bryan Vaughan, who run Brooklyn’s Paper Garden Records. Paper Garden is home to one of my favorite discoveries of the past year, Peasant, as well as Danish up-and-comers Alcoholic Faith Mission, and several other acts. Heidi and Bryan were gracious enough to spend more than four hours with me on these … they are amazing and I can’t thank them enough! Enjoy some super-cute photos of them below.
Tracklisting is at bottom of the post.