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Music Reviews

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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Kevin Tihista
Home Demons Volume 1
Parasol Records

Rating: 7/10 ?

October 14, 2005
Kevin Tihista is a type of musical character that we all enjoy hearing about. He began his career in cliché rock 'n' roll form, moving away from home in California and joining a band in Illinois. Eventually he became recognized for his work in Triple Fast Action and his contributions to a Veruca Salt release. Many musicians' stories end at this point of initial small-time success, but Tihista's life has been a bit more atypical.

At the doorstep of the 21st century, Tihista was in his 30s and without a formidable backing group - typically a hard spot for experienced musicians. Instead of falling off into depressive obscurity, a solo career became Tihista's calling grounds and the recognition and critical acclaim he received for this portion of his career was more than he had in his previous endeavors.

In the last four years, the Chicago-based singer-songwriter has released three full length albums, each of which display his recently developed prolific and eccentric writing style. More interesting than his uncommon storyline is the manner through which Tihista presents his ideas: the centerpiece of it all is his lo-fi, simple acoustic rock aesthetic. From this direction he is slightly more John Lennon (listen to "Stratford Upon Avon") than notable contemporary lo-fi songwriters Elliott Smith and Lou Barlow.

Elements such as electronic percussion sampling, indie rock drum parts, cheap poppy keyboard lines and crisp vocal harmonies are the dressing upon Tihista's well-set, thin, boyish voice and constantly strumming guitar. This set of sounds isn't always present, however, and that's what makes Home Demons Volume 1 an interesting recording.

Home Demons Volume 1 is a collection of recordings more than it is a cohesive album; even the title itself is a play on "home demos." Tihista writes at a constant pace, piecing together songs as if it was an everyday chore, then doing rough recordings of these ideas and throwing them into a waiting room. When it comes time to put out an album, he takes what ideas he feels are necessary and allows them to bloom in the creative space of the recording studio.

Tihista's creative process makes for varied results; throughout Home Demons Volume 1 there is a lo-fi, often melancholic-feeling indie rock side as well as a more eccentric side. During tracks "I Don't Blame You" and "Idiots", through the melancholic tinged side of things, he can sound awfully similar to fellow Chicago indie head Mike Kinsella of Owen. Tihista goes way out on a limb with the second part of the album, semi-reminiscent of what Dan Bejar does with his Destroyer material: you don't know whether to be weirded out or let yourself go and enjoy it when getting caught off guard by "#32".

Home Demons Volume 1 is an album made better through variety and disparate approach. Kevin Tihista is a songwriting soul that understands how repaved the music scene has become and doesn't want to add to the unnecessary rubbish - even though his prolific manner naturally seems like it should do just that. Certainly he paves his own way, song by song.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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