avoidance theory
The Shape of Trees CD (SHMAT07)

Released: December 14, 2004

1. Otto de Auto
2. Welcome Fits
3. Neck of the Woods (play mp3)
4. The Shape of Trees
5. Hibernate
6. Summery Action Films
7. Emotion Sickness (play mp3)
8. Rocking Horse Race
9. United Organ
10. The Love and Truth

Recommended for fans of: Rilo Kiley, Grandaddy, Yo La Tengo, Low, Sparklehorse

"The Shape of Trees" CD follows on the heels of Avoidance Theory's quirky "Promise to the Refrigerator" debut EP from 2003. Avoidance Theory is Bryan and Linda, who spent two years recording these 10 tiny tunes from the comforts of Shmat's House in Alhambra.

Avoidance Theory continues their "Twin Peaks"-esque approach to quirky pop-folk songs. In this tree themed album, the tracks vary from the gentle, pensive whisperings of "Neck of the Woods" and "Emotion Sickness" to quirkier items like the buzzy, cicada infused "Welcome Fits". In creating the songs, they sought to translate into music that spectacle of the change of seasons that sweep through the trees. The perennial transformations inherent in trees represents an extension of what's musically in their hearts: humble melodies wrapped in layers of sounds that still revolve around sporadic experimental weirdness.

Though the sound quality may have improved slightly for this album (with the introduction of extra mics and a new computer soundcard), fans of the earlier lo-fi and more experimental songs from "Promise to the Refrigerator" will still delight in the distortion-antics of "United Organ" and the acoustic-electric duality of "Hibernation". The science fiction kick they've always embraced is muted, but still makes an appearance as well on songs like "The Shape of Trees" and "Summery Action Films". Like the light that filters down through tree branches in deep forests their music remains alternately beautiful and creepy, but always comes directly from the heart.

Reviews / Press

Delusions of Adequacy, Pick of the Week, March 2005 - Joon Kim

Here's a tip for any budding record reviewers out there: do not read the press sheet. Press sheets are insidious pieces of propaganda that will either inflate the band to such a degree that disappointment becomes inevitable or paint the band in such a light that you will despise them before you even listen to the album. Take, for example, the press sheet for the Avoidance Theory, which described the band's new release as a "tree-themed album" full of "quirky pop songs... [translating] the spectacle of the change of seasons that sweep through the trees." Great. A bedroom pop duo releasing a concept album about trees. Trees! Needless to say, I really, really wanted to hate this album. I was ready with a whole list of pejoratives and ad hominem attacks, completely convinced that nothing worthwhile could come from this music.

And, as our more astute readers have probably guessed by now, I was wrong. Dead wrong. Fragile, intricate, and yet marvelous in its simplicity of form, The Shape of Trees is one of the most delicately beautiful albums released thus far into our young year. The listener is presented with 40 minutes of atmospheric, spacious pop with nary a misstep in sight, a gentle series of lullabies that manage the remarkable feat of being more than slight background music.

Part of the appeal lies in Brian and Linda’s vocals, managing to sound both sincere and passionate without ever rising above a murmur. Their harmonies – reminiscent of the interplay between Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low – are absolutely gorgeous, filling the spaces between the notes with a richness that belies their frail sighs and whispers. They also give the album a sense of cohesion that many other "bedroom rock" projects lack, anchoring the minimal instrumentation firmly to a solid melodic foundation... (Read the full review)

Copacetic, March 2005 - Mike

Joining the pantheon of spousal music acts is California's Avoidance Theory, comprised of marrieds Bryan and Linda (no last names given), and leaning toward the slow, quiet end of the spectrum like their married peers in Coastal and Low. Recording themselves at home, they blend an impressive array of sounds into atmospheric, low-fi, slightly skewed pop songs that combine elements of bedroom folk, slowcore, laptop electronica, and twee pop, while managing to avoid any the cliches associated with those styles. (They don't sound a lot like East River Pipe, but they are spiritual cousins in that way.) There are experimental touches and sounds all over the place, but nothing that sounds gratuitous, false, or out of place. Despite the wide range of sounds, it's a remarkably cohesive whole, with the duo's sophisticated songwriting sensibility and whispery vocals gently tying it all together. They show remarkable instincts for a first album. Befitting the arboreal lyrical motif running through the album, the whole effect is intimate and inviting, yet slightly spooky, like a cabin in the forest. This is a fresh, original, and arrestingly good disc.

Indieworkshop.com, Featured Review, January 2005 - Grant Capes

Long live the homemade music scene, with its mad geniuses and quiet apartment recordings. Ever since hearing my first Sebadoh cassette, I have never been able to digest big money rockers the same way, at least not without a great bit of irony and cynicism. What is nice about today’s technologies is that even home-recorded music can sound fairly good, trading accidental fuzz for intentionally beautiful noise.

The Avoidance Theory, a married duo from my neighborhood, put out a really amazing EP last year, and has successfully upgraded their indie chops for this new full-length release on Shmat Records. Gone is the reliable, but old four-track recorder, which leaves way more space for the loads of harmonies and little noisy bits that really make the song.

“The Shape of Trees” is evidently a musical journey into the lives of trees and their changes throughout the seasons. Each song is remarkably different in its feel, with a cohesiveness still present throughout the ten tracks. What changes in each piece (the drums weaving in and out, inclusion of various samples) is more temporarily satisfying. It is what stays the same that makes the Avoidance Theory worth checking out. It is their successful marriage of the broken radio sounds of Grandaddy and Sparklehorse with the soft melodies of bands like Low and Yo La Tengo (and I am not just saying that because they are all married or anything). Too much of either one could have doomed this release to obscurity, but the duo has really found the delicate balance between whispered harmonies and that old scratchy vocal vibe. (Read the full review)

Other Reviews:

Comunicazione Interna, March 2005 - Guido Gambacorta
30Music, February 2005 - Josh Bledsoe
Heraclitus Sayz, January 2005 - Heinrich Odom
Splendid E-zine, Featured Review, January 2005 - Ryan Humm
Unfinished, January 2005 - Hugh
Undertoner, December 2004 - Anders Christensen
Smother.Net, November 2004 - J-sin