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While we are arguably in the midst of the era of electronic music, this is also the age of the singer-songwriter. From personal heartbreak to career triumphs, from stories about friends to epics about fictional heroes, from political statements to raising awareness of important social issues, today’s artists are more than just singer-songwriters; they are cooler and immensely gifted storytellers. They have focused on soul, folk, rock, choral pop, etc. Kirt Vile. Sharon Van Etten. Natalie Prass. Angel Olsen. Steve Gunn. Marissa Nadler. These are just a few artists who excel at capturing our imaginations with their lyrical prowess and stunning musicianship. It’s no longer satisfactory to amaze with some great guitar riffs or blazing synths. The story, instead, must be able to carry the song while the music acts as its canvas.
And such is the approach that Doug Tuttle has taken on his terrific new album, It Calls On Me. His sophomore record is like the great albums of the ’60s and ’70s, which were soothing and lush and the stories told were about the challenges faced by every woman and man, girl and boy. Tuttle’s adaptation of the era is best represented on “Falling to Believe”, a stunning and spectacular psychedelic, folk-pop tune. Tuttle, however, weaves in modern touches on the track. Specifically, like what Kurt Vile has done to modernize ’70s and ’80s rock, Tuttle incorporates two short but riveting guitar solos to act as a bridge between the song’s three, dreamy parts. Their inclusions complement the feelings of uncertainty and confusions that envelope the song.
On “It Calls One Me”, the use of a quick tempo sets the stage for this song about self-discovery and loss of individual creativity. The quickened pace gives the sense that one is either being chased or trying to escape from one’s entrapment. It’s a dizzying, outrageously awesome track that will have music lovers recalling the brilliant psych-folk of Woods. This theme of individuality and innocence lost is repeated on the “Painted Eye”, a superb psychedelic track that channels Manipulator-era Ty Segall.
On the album’s most optimistic tracks, Tuttle surprises by making them the calmest and serene songs. The intent, obviously, is to create a sense of euphoria and utopia, much like what was done four, five decades. “Make Good Time” has a Mamas & Papas’ dreaminess while the optimistic “Saturday-Sunday” sees Tuttle take on the immersive qualities of Elliott Smith and Mikal Cronin.
Like so many of the aforementioned artists, Tuttle is telling stories not only from his eyes but from multiple perspectives. And even if the songs are taken from his own experiences or his deepest emotions, he tells them in a way that every person can related to them, as if they were the ones who wrote the lyrics and are signing the song. It’s an immense talent that Tuttle has showcased on It Calls On Me, an album that is among the year’s bests to date. But not only that, it should have Doug Tuttle recognized as a gifted songwriter, whose intimate, sincere, and warm style might have people thinking he’s actually more like one of music’s greats – Paul Simon.
It Calls On Me drops February 19, 2016 via Trouble In Mind Records.
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