On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ve been reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.
Raised by Jungian psychologists who ran a homeless shelter for street gangsters, New Zealand native Tamaryn moved to New York at 18 to pursue her musical ambitions. Ten years later she found herself in San Francisco working as a psychiatrist’s secretary and writing the songs that would become The Waves. Eschewing the wide-eyed psychedelia of her adopted hometown in favor of the monochrome fuzz of British shoegaze, the album is at once ethereal, atmospheric, and hallucinatory. Like grainy 1990s indie rock transported to the vast expanse of the California desert, it’s both oppressive and cinematic in scope. A joint effort with production partner and right-hand man Rex Shelverton, it’s an album drenched in husky vocals and reverb-laden guitars.
Having met in 2000 when Shelverton was a member of Sub Pop outfit Vue, the duo only began working together in 2008, upon Tamaryn’s relocation to the West Coast from NYC. Very specific about how they record, the pair are in thrall to albums exploring a singular thought, with Slowdive’s Souvlaki (Creation, 1993) and Victoria Land (4AD, 1986) by Cocteau Twins cited as major influences. Built around a Fender Twin, a guitar, and some space echo, The Waves is an icy blast of brooding nu-gaze. Opener and title track “The Waves” is a haunting slice of tripped-out indie-pysch with a doom-laden chorus dealing with drowning. The antithesis of the smiley surf-pop of the early 1960s, it’s the sound of a much darker side of the Sunshine State.
Death, heartache, and mental illness are themes dominating the album. Closing track “Mild Confusion” is a diagnosis Tamaryn found in a file at work. It’s triggered by head trauma and can be a precursor to dementia; not the subject matter of your run-of-the-mill pop album. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. Shelverton’s achingly beautiful production adds lightness to Tamaryn’s lyrics. An enthralling album that stands above the swathes of contemporary shoegaze copyists, The Waves is an extraordinary debut. Just don’t expect it to cheer you up.Visit: Tamaryn | Mexican Summer
Purchase: Insound | eMusic