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TUSKS - Gold

Such a little thing, this CD in its slim cardboard gatefold cover with its tiny credits made for ants. While the text size is an imposition I won't deny that at least the artwork is somehow intriguing. Yet on its own still I don't feel it would have prepared me for how huge these forty minutes of music actually are.

TUSKS - Gold (CD) (2024)

I could easily compile a long list of labels I should have a much closer eye on. Often labels without distribution in Germany or even from outside the EU, labels which - despite their proven hand for greatness - I only check on occasionally, because I just love to have a physical copy of my music and with shipping, taxes and stuff shit too often just gets terribly expensive. So the less you know the more you save, right?
And no, you cannot make me feel bad about that. because I'm still supporting enough artists from all around the world even if I ignore 99% percent of all promos, ads, posts, newsletters etc. which could potentially be up my alley, don't worry.

One Little Independent Records, home of everything Björk, keepers of the Crass catalogue, yet also connoisseurs of Contemporary Classical Music like composer Henrik Lindstrand, are surely among those. And I'm grateful that back in 2021 Tusks' "Change EP" sparked my interest enough to actually take a listen. Because since then I already expected that Emily Underhill's next full album would probably be very worthwhile.

Back then I categorized her music as Electronic Ambient with Dream Pop appeal. And while that still applies for a good part on "Gold", it's hardly all, because the singer / songwriter / instrumentalist / producer has expanded her framework on this album a lot without sacrificing her identity.

But before elaborating on this I'll just start with my first overall impression, which is that regardless of how to categorize them in detail at least nine of these ten tracks are just incredibly memorable addictive Pop hits from a parallel universe where that word actually means something. Yes, sometimes the songs are heavy on the choruses and bridges, but why not if those hooks are so good and the instrumentals so tasty?

Looking through the recent additions to my collection the feeling this album gives me is a melancholy satisfaction quite similar to Louise Lemón's "Lifetime Of Tears", yet achieved through different sound aesthetics.
Sometimes those are dominated by layers of synths and strings accompanied by hard Electronic drums, following the Art Pop blueprint of Björk's "Homogenic", but in other instances a more band-orientated mix of bass, guitar, piano and real percussion takes it into a here intimate and quiet, there wide-opening Shoegaze and even Post Rock direction. And most of the time you're just floating on indefinable tides inbetween.
That doesn't mean that potential influences and stylistic references for each track would actually be very hard to find. It just seems so pointless when you can put every note on this album so neatly under the umbrella of Pop as it should be or even shorter just pure gold. (Yeah sorry, that one was super cheap.)

While listening to "Gold" three names in particular are coming to my mind repeatedly. Almost all songs here could have been written by either Angel Olsen or A.A. Williams. Even the ethereal yet determined vocal presence often sits between those two.
The third name points more to brighter stage lights and Soul vibes and surely comes a bit unexpected. But sometimes we hear those delicate, a little adventurous and popstar-ish vocalizations, where I cannot help but for a moment picture an "ArchAndroid" / "Electric Lady" era Janelle Monáe ballad.
And if the combination of these three namedrops alone isn't already intriguing enough to give Tusks a listen, then you probably just hate it when great songs stick in your head?

So that's it from me about this a little short, but as I said in the beginning still huge work. I intentionally didn't point out any specific tracks, because once you go down that road you're still writing the review the next morning...

I already put "Gold" into my MIDYEAR TOP 15 last week, but in hindsight I'm actually not sure if I even ranked it high enough. Good that music's not a competition. Phew.

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