Here are the album reviews I wrote for the October issue of EL Magazine, which was distributed in Tokyo on September 25.
We Were Here
-Tamaryn (Mexican Summer/P-Vine)
What was really lost when the album format became too unwieldy for the iTunes generation wasn’t so much the format itself, since by and large it’s still the way pop music is chiefly marketed, but rather the tendency for labels to cultivate artists with an eye for the long haul. Bruce Springsteen wouldn’t have made it in today’s market because he first two albums, as good as they were, tanked. We Were Here is only the second long-player by the German duo Boy, but the progress they display over their debut is formidable in both style and scope. Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass used folky melodies and simple instrumentations to describe the sexual awakening of young women in a world that didn’t take them seriously, and while it was touching its tentative nature didn’t make a huge impression. Just the title track on their new album demonstrates a startling maturity of outlook. A song about death that is many years away, it nevertheless homes in on that feeling of the present, the only thing that separates a thinking person from existential despair. In a quiet but strong voice that recalls Regina Spektor, Steiner sings of how “we need no photographs/the past’s not only past,” with warmth and assurance. The music matches this elevated confidence, using more electronic production that is never heavy-handed but brings out the poppier elements of the pair’s songs. “Fear” addresses its titular emotion not with ominous synths and minor chords, but with buoyant drums and a rollicking chorus that banishes the night sweats and “shuts its hungry mouth.” We Were Here is a celebration of self that isn’t self-conscious from young women who revel in youth without rubbing it in your face. It’s enough to make you feel like a boy again. New Zealand Indie diva Tamaryn is too jaded to wear her heart on her sleeve, but her new album also shows a considerable amount of growth, away from the shoegazey muddle that characterized her previous work and more toward the dreamy pop you would expect from a 4AD artist. Though still overly reliant on reverb and orgasmic vocal gimmicks (found sounds from porn sites litter the proceedings, not to mention a line from Paris, Texas) that seem to substitute for substance, Tamaryn at least is writing complete songs now rather than recording extended snippets of ideas. Jorge Elbrecht’s production can sometimes bog down in atmospherics but as long as Tamaryn is singing the tracks retain enough sharp angles to get their hooks in you. The skinny is that Tamaryn now lives in New York, a city where you pretty much need to state what you’re all about if anyone is going to take you seriously, and despite her image as an erotic sylph, she comes across here as someone you could actually talk to, which means when she sings you believe it’s a real human being. Continue reading