“Staring at the world, have you figured it out yet”
The coming-of-age genre has always been a strong tradition of classic cinema, but it’s never really struck as strong a conceptual chord for the LP. Listening to Comfort Songs it’s tough to figure out why that is though, cause this is a perfect soundtrack to angsty development. Technically the third album by LA based 21 year-old Tyler Taormina & friends (albeit their first full release), it’s full of big ideas which are executed with a sort of admirably ramshackle naivety and an emotional tone which is fluctuant to say the least; bouncing regularly between awe and confusion; anger and sorrow; ego and ineptitude; it is drinking in the whole world and immediately throwing it all back up.
Musically speaking it absorbs what to me (and probably a lot of early-mid 20s music nerds) feels like a tangible spirit of youth; the wiry guitars and Taormina’s spirited but uneven yelps are built from a template of classic 90’s emo. On top of that the group make use of delicate piano strokes, brass wails and well placed strings to ensure there’s an elegant sadness shot through and everything takes on this interesting middle ground of youthful exuberance and stately maturity – like Braid meets Low or American Football mashed up with Bark Psychosis.
On ‘Boy Meets Mirror’ Taormina spits juvenile scorn (“I know it’s fucked up but I wish you the worst, how you call me your best friend I call you my lover, so I’ll see you on Sunday til then just fuck off”) but it’s against a backdrop of heavy sighing piano chords and drums being battered senseless with guitars dancing into some grand waltz befitting of far more grandiose sentiments. He can be similarly bullish throughout but then a female companion trades vocals his way on ‘Wish Little Fish’ and drags him back down to earth; his yelp softened to a contemplative serenade snaked between big brass cries. ‘Blurry & Bright’ sees his layered vocals singing in rounds, a droning effect incanting “it’s easy when it’s easy” and ending with a wry teen movie trope as he describes a kiss in the swimming pool and underlines how charmingly self-aware this all is.
His lyrics are a real highlight throughout, particularly on ‘Mother Sea’ where he espouses two lyrical pearls of note; firstly the anguished and completely relatable “get me away from my computer…oh it only disappoints me” and then later as a flurry of noise subsides he screams “I think I’m ready to love myself!” which is like a perfect third act realisation. The melody on ‘Stomach Pit’ is just gorgeous and the vibrancy of the music fits the stream of consciousness lyrics in the sense that the author seems gloriously overwhelmed. “I’m alive. I’m alive” he repeats on ‘Authorless Novel’ with a burgeoning existential awareness that is flush with feeling and then the crooning saxophone which guides smokey closer Halley’s Comet suggests that maturity isn’t all that far away after all. There’s too much to mention really, this is a record loaded with flashes of brilliance.
The true appeal is weirdly intangible though; it sounds like growing up, like that lyric I picked out up top. It sounds like frantically trying to arrange all these feelings into some kind of order which makes sense. It is angry and hormonal, misguided and juvenile, but it is also innocent and excitable, full of lust for new experiences and caught up in the beauty of drunken epiphanies. I guess the world will always be confusing, we just learn to detach ourselves from that and to pretend we’ve got everything well enough figured out to get along. This album brings all of those things flooding back. It’s far from being a perfect album, but it’s richer and far more interesting for its flaws than any other I’ve heard lately. Immediately one of my favourite albums of the year.