Harmonica Dunn

Aaron Lee Tasjan

Every now and then an artist comes along who makes you remember why you started listening to albums in the first place: Aaron Lee Tasjan is that artist.

With his wrecked cool, off-center charm, and restless creative dazzle, he makes music with conviction and arch mystique that has its roots in rock’s murky past, armed with an arsenal of songs that spill over with humor, intelligence, irony, personal vision and at times prophecy; pushing boundaries of taste and imagination to new heights, unrestrained by genre or subject matter. Songs that speak to the tribe.

An obsessive creative, Aaron Lee Tasjan writes pop songs with a twist, a little overdriven, far too honest at times—performing them like ragged rock tunes that careen a little too close to the edge without actually falling over into the abyss, and autobiographical to a fault. One listen to “Feminine Walk,” the musician’s blatantly confessional song on Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, you realize he is the legitimate heir to early rock ‘n’ roll's sly sexual sedition. He updates the idea of androgyny but dispels the emotional and social ambiguity with lyrics that reflect his own geographic and artistic wanderings. Beginning in his early teens they took him from Delaware to California, to Ohio, to New Jersey, to Massachusetts, to New York, to his current home in Nashville, always looking for his psychic and musical locus.

In both his travels and in making his fourth solo album, you get the sense over Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!’s 11 songs, that the man who began the album, is not the same man who completed it, transformed both by the experiences that inspired the songs and crafting them. In pursuing the muse, Tasjan found himself, and you can feel it beginning with the blithe, deceptive sunshine pop of “Sunday Women,” about an elusive dream girl, to “Computer of Love,” a slurry blurry cautionary about the demise of rock. “Up All Night” is part agit pop, part glam, an unexpected millennial anthem about modern romance without being precious, while “Another Lonely Day,” is a haunting Zen koan full of profundity and neurosis.

“Don’t Overthink,” is a strutting, sputtering minor key threat, rhythmically so dangerous, the drumming sounds like knife flicks instead of drum sticks, while “Cartoon Music,” is full of ennui and unremitting boredom of someone caught in a loop, broken only by Tasjan’s insistent guitar. “Dada Bois” is as clever as it is revelatory, with Beach Boy-ian harmonies so pure that you can almost feel the sea spray. “Now You Know” is a deep and naked look right into Tasjan’s psyche, crackling with honesty and doubt so real you can feel the ripples of anxiety, but thankfully dissipate on a wave of hope and a final shimmering guitar note that hangs in the air like a wisp of a cirrus cloud before a rainstorm.

The last two songs “Not That Bad,” and “Got What I Wanted” pick up that theme, coming to a state of grace both musically and psychically—resolving this sometimes disquieting song cycle with a chiming melody and the quiet assurance that life is what you make of it, and sometimes even more if you just get out of your own way.  This is not anxious music for anxious times, but rather music as an antidote for anxious times. It is the sound of the future arriving.

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