I’m not great at being outdoorsy. I would love to be decent at it. I love nature and all its parts–I most especially love feeling small and unimportant when faced with an endless forest. I’ve never been the type to go camping, or hike more than once every two years, or cast a rod into a lake, or drink a beer by the docks. It’s the New Jersey in me, I guess.
However, I don’t need to be able to relate to any of those things in order to understand the energy Unknown Neighbour demonstrates with “Home”. The music video itself could tell you the story even without the sound. It’s about a kid in a small rural town growing up in a place that didn’t exactly accept him warmly. “They brought you up/ by holding you down,” but growing up rough means growing up tough and the best stories are born of tragedy. The lyrics go on to tell the aftermath:
“But you grew up and swore to add chapters of ease / May they cover your core/like the rings of old trees.”
It’s a sweet story about putting aside your past and focusing on your future (in so many words). Simple stories are like poetry, and these stanzas express that poetic flame so brightly. The simile of “like the rings of old trees” seems almost too
perfect for this acoustic, woodsy song. It blends the guitar into the lyrics, the voice into the feeling. We’re taken on a journey in someone else’s shoes, and you can feel the bugs biting your angles. The vocals are soothing and with volume.
The guitar holds a shocking depth. I’m almost deluded into thinking that there’s only the guitar playing–but there isn’t. Tambourines, harmonicas, kick-drums–real analog noise. It’s too easy to say this song is rustic, but it’s more meaningful to say it’s honest. Besides the story it tells, and how it’s nearly relatable to anyone who’s ever been a new kid; besides the guitar and drums, which sound like there were pulled from dad’s closet; besides any of that, “Home” is exactly what it says it is. It’s home to the heart. There’s a reason artists paint landscapes, and why people who could go anywhere have
lake houses. The human experience was born among trees and that’s where it belongs. It’s my personal belief that anything crafted between roots and under stars takes on a new personality.
Unknown Neighbour is Sascha Zemke, a German-singer-songwriter whose influences speak before we even put them on paper. Groups like Mumford & Sons, Bear’s Den, and The Avett Brothers are listed on his website as major inspirations but to me, it’s the folk energy that runs through us all that someone like Zemke can pull out and put into words. He runs on the path we all know instinctively.
Enough about the magic of the forest and the “spirit of the human condition” or whatever that means. Go listen to “Home”. Go listen to Unknown Neighbour and pour some iced tea. If it wasn’t so damn cold I’d sit outside to it.