Monday, November 18, 2013

add 0559 tulsa

I Was Submerged is the debut full-length by Tulsa, who hail, ironically enough, from Boston. Not to be confused with the darker, far more mysterious Tulsa Drone, this group snagged its name from the first book by photographer/director Larry Clark. These still controversial pictures were of his friends and Tulsa in 1962; many of those depicted were speed freaks, junkies, and outlaws, who are no longer breathing air. What the photographs and these songs have in common is simply unclear. Tulsa, the band, by contrast, write exceptionally tight, well-crafted pop songs. Acoustic and electric guitars with a conventional bass-and-drum rhythm section are often juxtaposed by a Rhodes piano streaming painterly through their songs. On this Park the Van Records release, the quartet offers strange tales of desire, rage, and disappointment and the wish to transcend most of them by any means necessary. This point of view, the one expressed on "Mass," is especially poignant given the spooky psychedelic pop these lyrics are framed in: "I've got a cross to bear/With my demon wife/I can reach all my fiery depths and I blame it all/The sounds we make I will not describe/Nor the violence...." The youthful voice singing these words makes it even more astonishing, because they come from the mouth of a vocalist (bandmembers are only identified by first names and no instrumental attributions are given) who doesn't seem old enough to be married, let alone full of this kind of rage. As these seven songs wind out, the listener is seduced initially by the framework construction in the songs. Seldom do people (especially in the indie rock world) really craft songs with bridges, hooks, and attention to vocal harmonies and creating a "sound." Tulsahave one. It may remind you of many things, but those impressions are fleeting as they enfold you into their strange, almost abhorrently charming universe (meaning you cannot understand why you are attracted so magnetically to such misanthropic reflections) and hold you there; the meaning in those words may send you spiraling out again, but you'll be back, guaranteed. I Was Submerged is auspicious for its considerable skill, subtlety, discipline, and focused skill. All the mechanics aside, these songs have depth, breadth, and (often deeply troubled) soul.


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