As a paintbrush for these miniatures, the one-man band mostly uses tools with which he can be precise: his voice and an acoustic guitar. Throughout the album, Becker covers a wide swath of musical territory with them. Sometimes, his guitar sounds classical, moving dexterously through trills and arpeggios until the baroque melodies collapse into off-kilter, dissonant moments of experimentation (“Water Flower,” “Ninety in the Shade”). At other times, the guitar sounds plainly folky, as in the pretty and warm picking pattern on “Daytime Blues.” Though Something Waffle is, for the most part, a duet between a voice and a guitar, it occasionally sounds like something much fuller. Song such as “Beanie Baby,” “Quietude,” and “Inside Joke” resemble other genres—art rock, post-punk—that have been stripped down to their skeletons. You can imagine what would fill in the generous spaces in the music.
While the compositions shift, Becker’s voice remains fairly consistent throughout the 12 tracks on the album. In addition to “miniatures,” the artist has found other apt words to describe his art—“shyguy,” “naptime,” and “heartsong”—all of which reflect in his singing. His voice is delicate and subdued, but not without expression. With the right mix of guitar supporting him (in “Open Arms” and “Daytime Blues,” for example), Becker’s muted and somber voice sounds like Elliott Smith’s.
That comparison functions beyond Trees Take Ease’s vocals. Self-deprecating and raw, the overarching sentiment on Something Waffle is a sad one. He sings: “Truth be told you probably would avoid me” (“Daytime Blues”); “Cool how the thing you love must turn around to haunt you” (“Blue”); and “Save me from pulling out my hair” (“Open Arms”). Much of the album has this confessional feel, as if capturing scrawled thoughts on paper in a letter or diary.
But as the album title establishes, Something Waffle This Way Yums… has a sense of humor, too. Some of the most delightful moments on the album come in the form of small stories that are funny for their ordinariness. “Beanie Baby,” for example, is an ode to a hat (“My same old crap is easier to bear when I’m underneath my off-grey beanie”). “Favorite Song,” we learn at the end, portrays the mundane dialogue of an okay first date (“What’s your favorite song? / Hopefully I like it / Also your last name? / It’s getting kinda warm /But not enough to bike out / To my Planet Fitness). It’s the miniature portraits like these that make Trees Take Ease’s work equal measures strange and charming. Something Waffle is a particular album that won’t suit every moment, but will be magical in the times that it does.