Trees Outside The Academy is Thurston Moore's first album since 1995's Psychic Hearts to feature wall-to-wall pop songs. Other than the distinct voice behind the mic, that's where the similarity ends. Any track from Psychic Hearts could have popped up on a mid-period album by Moore's full-time gig, Sonic Youth. This time, Moore turns inward and turns down, which works to his advantage. Where a bass would normally be, there's cello providing a second melody on top of Moore's vocals (see the gorgeous "Honest James" for the best example), and acoustic guitar is preferred over electric. One exception to the latter is J. Mascis' occasional leads (Trees was recorded at Mascis' Bisquiteen studio), though they hardly interfere with the album's soft mood.