When The Burnt Pines released their eponymous debut album in 2021, among the accolades the LP earned was spending 11 weeks on the AMA/CDX Top 50 Americana Album Chart, and also a Top 10 spot on the Roots Music Report’s Best Albums of 2021 year-end list. Celebrated as “sublime… an album flush with a delicate folk rock glow, a quiet caress one might find while nestled by a fire on a chilly winter’s night” (Goldmine), the critical and commercial success of their debut has paved the way for Don’t Look Down, the brilliant second album from the polycultural, globe-spanning outfit. While the band’s unique circumstances – the trio’s core lineup consists of members based in both the United States and Portugal – were already challenging enough, a global pandemic put their debut album’s release on hold while the group figured out how best to proceed. But, as they have so skillfully and beautifully demonstrated in both logistics and craft, the challenges, both professional and deeply personal, were met with perseverance and a stunning burst of musical creativity, paving the way for Don’t Look Down. Charting intensely intimate and yet universal subjects, the new album explores such themes as divorce, escapism and redemption, weaving compelling tales alluding to ghosts and aliens, and all the while retaining a sense of hope and peace in trying times through its gentle, mesmerizing melodies and instrumental artistry. Don’t Look Down is a rare, remarkable achievement: a sophomore album that outshines its glistening predecessor.
Consisting of 11 original tracks and closing with an exuberant take on the Jethro Tull classic, “Skating Away (On the Thin Ice of the New Day),” the bulk of Don’t Look Down’s lyrics were penned by Kris Skovmand, The Burnt Pines’ Danish-born lead singer, who was separated, and eventually divorced, during the process of writing and recording the album. Skovmand, also an accomplished filmmaker, is the father of four sons, who make memorable appearances in the videos the singer shot to accompany songs from the record. From the opening cut, the spritely “Bring Out Your Book,” to the propulsive title track “Don’t Look Down” and fizzy Jazz-tinged Pop of “The Ghost Living in My Beer,” through tunes shaded with darker tones, such as “What Did You Come Back For?” and the heart-rending “Daytime TV,” Skovmand’s ethereal vocals and self-assured approach to his subject matter is distinguished by refreshing candor, marked throughout by, as guitarist Aaron Flanders often characterizes them, the singer’s “achingly gorgeous” vocals.