Aaron Lee Tasjan | Tasjan!Tasjan!Tasjan! | (New West)
4 out of 5 stars
Is Aaron Lee Tasjan really “the prince of interstellar pop,” as his promotion proclaims?
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There is little doubt after hearing his diverse self-titled third full-length album that the Nashville based singer/songwriter has tapped into a unique sound. It combines various influences, including the British invasion, space rock, folk, and sure, pop. Tasjan’s mix of The Beatles’ musicality, the natural melodies and vocal stylings of Tom Petty along with a touch of Marc Bolan’s glam creates its own niche. The approach may be different from his previous albums, but it still remains faithful to his original identity.
From the opening retro “Sunday Woman” that could easily have appeared on either of Big Star’s first two releases, to the bouncy McCartney groove of “Now You Know” and the shimmery, space-like guitars that drift through the strummy acoustics of “Don’t Overthink It,” Tasjan combines disparate genres and creative instrumentation with a veteran’s poise and confidence. He even finds an early Kinks groove in the UK-styled “Dada Boise.” While each of his sets is distinct, savvy song construction remains the benchmark.
Like early Todd Rundgren, the choruses of Tasjan’s songs will leave you humming after the first spin. That’s especially true of the sing-along “Cartoon Music” (the rest of the chorus is “for plastic people”) that bounces with frisky innocence.
Some lyrics, like those of “Computer of Love” question current uses of technology. The voice in “Not That Bad” informs us: Read the paper on my phone, as I felt so all alone. Others, like “Feminine Walk” express sexuality. In “Up All Night,” the singer tells us he Broke up with my boyfriend to go out with my girlfriend. Finally, songs like “Another Lonely Day” emote feelings of isolation that reflect the tension bubbling underneath Tasjan’s often upbeat musicality.
By the closing Harry Nilsson influenced ballad “Got What I Wanted,” the listener has experienced a musical and philosophical excursion through Tasjan’s own magical mystery tour.
It’s an interstellar pop journey well worth taking.
Photo by Michael Weintrob