thoughts on: the lonely forest’s “arrows” and memories and spring

happy birthday.

I vividly remember sitting at work in Rockford, Illinois, killing time during my summer job in the same way I kill time these days – refreshing news feeds, looking for news to pique my interest, even momentarily. I saw a news article on about Chris Walla (guitarist of Death Cab for Cutie, at least at the time) starting a record label called Trans- Records, and signing a band called The Lonely Forest, whose new album he would produce. (Note – a Google search turns up the label and signing announcement in March of 2010 – either I was late to the party, or my memory is bunk – not important.) There it was – my interest was piqued! Death Cab for Cutie was one of my all-time favorite bands, and Chris Walla had produced all of the Death Cab for Cutie records, not to mention a number of other records that I had thoroughly enjoyed. I figured if this band was important enough to start a label for, then they ought to be a band I start keeping an eye on. So I did.

Flash forward to September of 2010 – The Lonely Forest are coming to play a show at my school in the middle-of-nowhere Iowa supporting Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and they’ve got an EP coming out in a couple weeks. This was prime sophomore year of college – it was a beautiful fall, far enough into the semester to realize how difficult things were getting but too early to massively freak out about it, Sufjan had recently released a surprise EP and announced an imminent new album, Kanye was dropping Good Friday tracks weekly before his upcoming album, and everything was mostly great. The Lonely Forest EP came out and I was hooked (I hadn’t even considered looking into their back catalog – nice job, me!). I still had an iPod that I used consistently, so I started wearing out those mp3s.

Within the first week of October, I was dumped by my girlfriend of almost two years, Sufjan Stevens had released Age of Adz, and I had done incredibly poorly on a Computer Science mid-term exam. I was beginning to question my major, something I’d continue to do until I graduated a couple years later, and a number of my friends in Computer Science were jumping ship to other majors, which certainly didn’t make me feel any more confident. But as I have always done, I tried to ignore all the stress and pain by looking forward to major events – the Sufjan concert in Minneapolis was at the end of the month, and The Lonely Forest show was just a week later.

I remember sitting on the same bench as John, Tony, Eric, and Braydn, as people started to trickle in to the show. Like most shows at the M-Shop in Ames, there wasn’t a big crowd, yet I was still too stubborn to say hello. The guys tore through the majority of their album which was to be released the next spring, but at the time I felt like an idiot not recognizing any of the songs they were playing. Luckily I stealth-recorded the show with a couple of tiny microphones sticking out of my backpack, and I still go back and listen to that show years later. I bought the physical EP and a shirt after they played their set, and promptly left (sorry, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin).


March came around – I had failed the Computer Science class the semester previously, and things weren’t really looking that much better this second time around. Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had been on repeat all winter. But Arrows was scheduled to come out just a week before my birthday, just in time for spring break. It was everything I could have wanted and more. I remember the first time I listened to the album, I put it on my new smartphone I had received for Christmas (goodbye, iPod!) and headed outside. It was a beautiful week, and the opening of “Be Everything” into the familiar “Go Outside” became an instant soundtrack to spring. The whole album flowed seamlessly from one song to the next, and I couldn’t turn it off. Even four years later, the album hasn’t lost it’s hold on me. (Somehow Arrows is still 30 plays away from being my top album on – no offense to Jonathan Coulton, but there are easily about 200 plays of Arrows that aren’t accounted for in that list.)


I’m not really sure what it is about the album that clicked with me so instantly. Over the years I’ve found that just about any melody that John thinks up resonates deeply with me. Tony knows how to take the songs to the next level, driving them harder. Eric and Braydn layer heavily on the rhythm to wrap everything up and stick a bow on top. The combination just works. It’s a very natural feeling, and it doesn’t go away, and it’s why I never get tired of their music.

When I dig into it, though, beyond the keen production and songwriting on the album, I think Arrows hit me at the absolute perfect time. Post-breakup, mid-struggles with school – Arrows became my escape. To this day, anytime I turn it on, it feels like spring, and freedom, and driving around with the windows down and the wind blowing against your open hand. If I don’t know what to listen to, or I feel like I need a break from life, or a pick-me-up, I put on Arrows and I’m somewhere sunnier for 50 minutes.


Arrows is spring of 2011 forever. Arrows is my favorite early birthday gift, every year. It’s cold and windy outside, but it’s sunny in here.

Let’s go – arrows out.