A while back I remember reading a sheepish combined embrace and dismissal of Elliott Smith’s music as “easy listening for ex-punks,” a pithy descriptor that applies even better to Tamaryn’s debut album, The Waves. Of a piece with recent not-not-New-Age sounding albums by Emeralds and Glasser, this record earns its stripes in the dead of winter.
The layers of the eponymous Tamaryn’s gentle vocals lie cushioned in giant guitar washes that soar over hardcore vet Rex John Shelverton’s delay-pedal-shuddered arpeggios and tom-heavy drum parts. She sings about the sun, the waves, the sand, the wind. Every song has huge builds and cathartic releases. This kind of music has been done before by bands like Slowdive and Mazzy Star, though “Sandstone” just sounds like Enya.
The result is pretty, and undeniably effective. The simple, catchy bass line of “Mild Confusion” emerges from the heady guitar chaos of “Cascades” to undergird a feedback-ridden Ride-style chord progression, ornamented by staccato picking and increasingly dense harmony vocals, winding up and winding down to an abrupt ending. It’s corny, and structured like a “Law and Order” episode, every shift and addition in exactly the place you’d expect, but guess what — it works.
You want to shut your eyes and nod slowly while envisioning the pink beach that adorns The Waves’ album cover. Tamaryn seems confident she’ll lull exactly like this, playing to a choir as prepared now for this unchallenging, narcotic vibe as it was once for fist-pumping anthems.