Spend any duration of time with Carlos Forster, listen to any song on his incredibly poignant album "Family Trees," and you're bound to feel yourself relating to him, nodding a lot and offering personal stories that don't usually come out at parties. The way that he thinks and the way that he writes is - in the best possible sense of the word - an inviting mess. It is gloriously particular, but still so fundamentally open-ended that it feels like this brain splattered against the wall, with the colors and the matter forming these mosaics that you can't stop looking at.
You cannot stop listening to Forster as he's trying to make sense out of everything, and we mean everything. He gets into it thick with the granddaddies of thoughts and provocations. He just meanders through all of the seriousness and all of the junk as if it was the stuff of popcorn movies, meant to be consumed and then forgotten about just as quickly. It's as if he's trying to insulate a house by concentrating on really sealing out the cold air in the front of the house, but leaving the entire back side of the house without walls, so it all just rushes in behind him. He's defenseless to the overabundance of mysterious life working on him, fucking with him in ways that don't necessarily hurt, but they're puzzling all the same. There he is, doing the things that he needs to be doing, to make it all feel steady and right with the insulation - addressing and answering all of the questions that are posed, to the best of his ability - and he can't quite figure out why it doesn't seem to be getting any damned warmer in his house. He's doing a great job. It's airtight. Some good and some change should be getting done.
Forster, here on his brilliant solo debut produced by his college buddy M. Ward and engineered by the great Mike Coykendall, has a way of furthering himself by aging and thinking the thoughts, growing into more of a wacky, nervous collage than he was before. He thinks about people and space and about how any of it fits together or shouldn't fit together and most of the heaviness of the endeavor swells his head up into tatters and confetti. It's actually predominantly confetti because all of the looseness of it all, all of life's irrelevance can make a person giddy. It's made Forster into someone who seeks and finds great pleasure in the merry-go-round-ish, circus of emotions and unknown dramatics.
He sings often, in these slightly whimsical folk songs that sometimes bring to mind the scene from "Sideways" when Paul Giamatti sneaks to call his ex-wife during his dinner in wine country, when he never should have, about how none of us ever really know who we are. Sung in the way that Forster sings it, it's not heard as a sad admission, but one that's more promising and lovely. For all of the conflict that such a situation could present, it's what we should hope for. We should pray for the mess that never lets us down, that never lets us sleep. We should pray for the dizzy dizziness. It finds us nonetheless so we should at least be dressed for it when we answer the door.