Self-released last month, "Dark Shores" is the follow-up to Strand Of Oaks' acclaimed 2010 album, "Pope Killdragon." Expanding on the latter, frontman Timothy Showalter intended for even more icy synthesizers and strange sci-fi rumbles to meet his acoustic guitar-playing and confessional songwriting on "Dark Shores." He recorded the music ("Like an '80s horror movie soundtrack," he says) before writing the lyrics, then realized the lyrics didn't quite mesh with the sonic mood. Scrapping the first version, he went to San Francisco to re-record with lauded indie artist John Vanderslice.


"I made the soundtrack before the movie was written, and it just didn't fit," says Showalter. "The second version became more of a minimal, mostly acoustic album; the songs are even more lonely, autobiographical and raw. They're still mostly about space, but the synthesizers were too obvious this time. It turned out futuristic, but very organic."


Always fascinated with space, on "Dark Shores" Showalter explores how, as he gets older, his life's becoming more alien to him. "Things are changing; I'm not as handsome as I once was," he jokes. "Space is such a perfect mirror for what it was like turning 30 --losing friends, getting grayer and getting weirder-looking."


The album's startlingly heartwarming, with humorous flashes, but there's an unshakeable melancholy. "It's a genuinely sad record, and I've never admitted that before," says Showalter. "It's the realization of moving on from personal relationships, from who I once was. But there's also hope. I didn't want to write totally self-pitying music. But, man, these really are some sad bastard songs."