Last time out, on Tynes, we heard an angrier side of Tamara Sandor. It was a very confessional album. On her latest album, however, the emotion is much more measured, and that’s partly because a number of the songs are character-driven. The stories unfold slowly, as though Sandor is relating a myth or story the way people thousands of years ago did regularly.
The music helps to create this meditative atmosphere. This album is guitar-based with a folk flavouring, harkening back to the “dusty roads” Laura mentioned in the aforementioned Tynes review. Sandor’s guitar is the main musical weapon, sometimes the only thing you’ll be hearing from time to time. The opener “Stone” is quite sparse at first, alluding to something bad happening in the past without naming it: “I long to regret it, but I don’t.” Before long, sure enough, the song gets louder and more unhinged, so perhaps the anger heard in Tynes hasn’t faded completely.
Sandor’s lyrics in general either have a biting wit or bring to mind vivid images. The song “Graham” stretches out past five minutes and sounds like a kind of warped ode to a lover. Early on he’s mentioned being “true as a Scandanavian” and to have a “voice like thunder and honey in my abdomen.” As the observations go on, Graham starts to get even more dimensions, like in the line “You told me ‘Santeria’ was your jam.” In the more urgent-sounding “The Ticket,” which features some pedal steel from Michael Feuerstack, the senses perfectly describe a relationship: “The way I come back to the city to smell your whiskey breath and feel my words colliding.”
“Nobody” is about a fanatically devotional nun, and the dark, moody guitars help to show how unhealthy this devotion is. This song could have easily been about an unhealthy relationship and the effect would have been just as creepy. “Man of the Law” is a more alt-country song about a man who followed in his father’s law-enforcement footsteps, but something is amiss: “But ever since the fire, all is calm.”
It’ll take you a few listens to fully absorb the complex stories Sandor weaves, and it’s worth it to take in the arrangements behind them, including horns and very tight percussion. Even when it’s mostly her guitar and vocals, like in “Summons,” the effect is still dreamlike. It makes sense that “monologue” is one of the tags Sandor uses in her Bandcamp description of this album; the characters are fully-formed and they’re talking directly to you.
Top Tracks: “Graham”; “Nobody”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)