The Waves, the upcoming debut album from my current obsession, San Francisco duo Tamaryn, opens with the title track. Rex John Shelverton's dank and heavily echoed overdubbed guitar lines majestically roll across the audioscape. The bass throbs. Drums pound a simple hypnotic beat from unusually deep in the mix. Then Tamaryn herself arrives, singing coolly, seductively, inviting the listener to "come down to the surface." She gently compels you further, "down to the shallows... Wait for the water to claim you...into the waves." A fuzzy guitar crests, then crashes. The Sirens had nothing on this.
Epic and emotionally desolate pop music is nothing new. The Cure built a massively successful career on it. But this band makes it sound fresh and counterintuitively life affirming. The vocals feel so impassive, as if Tamaryn has moved past remorse or pain, and the intricate guitar and synth washes come across so much like the result of inexorable processes, that the sneakily melodic music ends up approximating the indifferent beauty of the natural world. (It's no coincidence that the song titles include "Coral Flower," "Sandstone," and "Choirs of Winter.") This is music to be beheld rather than beloved, and it's beautiful.
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