Aaron Lee Tasjan

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Hard Love and Free Luck (2008), 4/10
In the Blazes (2015), 6.5/10
Silver Tears (2016), 4.5/10
Karma for Cheap (2018), 5/10
Tasjan Tasjan Tasjan (2021), 6/10

Nashville's singer-songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan came out as a cross between an "outlaw" country singer, a 1950s rocker and a Tom Petty follower on In the Blazes (2015). Tasjan travels back to the 1950s for the Elvis Presley-ian rockabilly Get Gone and especially the frenzied Jerry Lee Lewis-ian rockabilly Sixtysix Dollar Blues. Then comes two nods to the 1960s with the gospel-blues-country fusion of the Band in The Trouble With Drinkin' and the bluesy Rolling Stones-ian rave-up Bitch Can't Sing. And the journey reaches its emotional core with three 1970s-inspired ballads: the ominous Stan Ridgway-esque country-rock sermon The Dangerous Kind and the melancholy, hymn-like Tom Petty-ian meditations Lucinda's Room (the standout) and Made in America. At least Lucinda's Room, Bitch Can't Sing, Sixtysix Dollar Blues and The Trouble With Drinkin' deserve to join the canon of the 2010s.

Silver Tears (2016) opted instead for a sloppy detour into poppy refrains with echoes of the Electric Light Orchestra (Little Movies) and into bubblegum-pop of the 1960s (Dime, the galloping standout). A little bit of real emotion is left in the pensive country-pop ballad Memphis Rain, and in the tender country elegies On your Side and Where The Road Begins And Ends.

Karma for Cheap (2018), abandoning the acoustic guitar for electric arrangements, attempted to rebrand him as a psychedelic rocker with awful results. The bombast of songs like The Truth is so Hard to Believe and Set you Free destroys all the magic and recalls Get Back-era Beatles' goofy attempts at sounding hard-rock. Heart Slows Down is a weak imitation of Tom Petty. Strange Shadows, perhaps the standout, harkens back to the 1950s, feeling like some kind of Roy Orbison cover. The austere folk lied Dreamer Dreamer feels like a breath of fresh air while he returns to what he knows best with the spunky country-rock of Crawling at your Feet and the clownish boogie of Songbird.

Tasjan Tasjan Tasjan (2021) wed his retro sound to soaring synthesizer arrangements with much better results. The calm psych-pop singalong Sunday Women, the theatrical 1970s-style glam-pop of Cartoon Music, the gentle and mundane litany Another Lonely Day, which evokes the Beatles' White Album, and especially the martial Up all Night, a faithful imitation of Tom Petty, well represent the four pillars (and obsessions) of his music.

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