Thurston Moore is arguably Sonic Youth's most unapologetic noisemaker, championing the avant-garde wherever possible. Yet, he's also its most pop-oriented composer. He has deftly made these incongruous musical approaches feel inseparable, but he quietly challenges his own legacy on his first solo album in over a decade. Recorded at J. Mascis's home studio, Trees Outside the Academy has more in common with folk music than, say, "EVOL" or "Sister." Thurston, with or without Sonic Youth, has been tempering his noisier side for years. Here he practically abandons it, as violin and acoustic guitar dominate everything electric.
A cursory glance over the liner notes leaves the impression most of Tree's lyrics are incidental, as faded sepia photographs--none outside Thurston's youth--dominate every page. Blame it on time, but only one theme dominates: nostalgia. Thurston Moore remains a rare songwriter, capable of capturing personal moments, but holding on delicately enough for the listener to share them. The album closes with a home recording of Thurston, at 13 years old, precociously experimenting with sound and addressing us, an unknown future audience: "What you have heard is me wasting time, again asking myself deep inside: 'why the fuck am I doing this?'" If you're a fan, you might not know why he's doing it, but you'll be grateful he still is.