It’s something in the meandering, out for a walk in the woods twinkling and vaguely melancholic strings and rolling percussion, the naked and vulnerable meditative chant of the vocals, the examination of dreams and directions, of relationships, of thought processes and conversations, that makes If and It‘s fifth release, Asleep In The Forest so hypnotic and enchanting. Yes, fifth release, so one might ask, “where the hell have I been?” Obviously not in the same sphere as this fine Maine-based alt-folk foursome, but I’m here now.

“Directions they just keep failing me,
an empty pamphlet of broken misery.
My feelings they just keep leaving me
they’ve packed every hope with them
they just don’t believe in me like i believe in you.”
– Potions

If and It began in a Portland basement, where Evan Parker recorded Buffalo Heart (Peapod Recordings, 2010). Drummer Chris Dibiasio and bassist Tim Alan Walker then joined him in a Southern New Hampshire cabin, where they recorded the Ratpig EP. They continued in that configuration through three more albums and two more “cabin EPs” (an annual fall tradition). In 2013, steel/guitarist McKay Belk joined them, moving to a South Portland garage for this latest offering.

Back to the music, and specifically to the brilliant final track on the new album, a song called “Letting Go.” It’s a stream of consciousness study of daily survival, the fear of commitment and the difficulty in letting go.

“your heart turns to rust to hold to cold and afraid to give love after you have been hurt and the closer you stand when you are together the more alone you become once you fall apart, there’s more to this life than just falling, this whole world it’s a real work of art…”
– Letting Go

The Portland Phoenix called their music “modern Appalachian post-punk,” others may have described them as “indie post folk pop americana garage alt-country art rock” (or that may have been a tongue-deep-in-cheek acknowledgement by the band of the absurdity of labels). I just call it “damn fine.”

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