So, I have been a long time fan of Kevin Tihista, an obscure little gem, and one who has made key spots on mixtapes to impress girls.
His last album, 'On this Dark Street' was brooding acoustic downbeat pop and I thought it was his best yet. Until now.
Never a prolific recorder, a second album in a year is a rare treat. But what a treat it is.
The album opens with a beautiful little track called Infinity which it is hard to imagining anyone taking offence to. But this leads into a love song of rare brilliance, Right Here, Girl, which should make mixtapes forevermore from lovestruck types.
The song cycle is consistently high, consistently romantic with the odd excursion into bitterness (Try the Veal for example), just to ensure it is a bittersweet record rather than a saccharine sweet one.
After a consistent centre, the album comes to a lovely finish with Sequisha Chingade Picante, followed by the perfect hopeful romantic album closer On My Way.
This is an intelligent subtle pop record. Simple yet complex. Thought provoking yet fun.
Kevin Tihista has just made the best record of a breathtaking career - you should definitely give him a chance of making Modern Standard a standard in your playlists for years to come.
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For anyone who likes Spiritualized, Elliot Smith, John Lennon type music. Great melodies and laid back feel. My only criticism is maybe the songs sound a bit to simple. But my first album of this guy, will definitely further my interest.
Unpicking the influences of Kevin Tihista is like opening the encyclopedia of sunshine pop if such a book existed (which it should). His musical tweets point to a love of power pop, straight-ahead '70s soft rock and big ballads - basically anything with a yearning melody. This new album prostrates itself at the feet of these influences and embellishes the addictive melodies with lush guitar solos draped in gold-leaf arrangements and a mid-summer haze of feeling good/ feeling bad/ feeling jealous with lyrics that startle and surprise.
There is an undisguised confessional aspect to his songs, an inward-looking sense of under-achievement and frustration - if only the world would change then everything would be OK. But this disdainful world view is couched in a nonchalance and spontaneity that comfortably overrides any atmosphere of negativity. A very real sense of the person behind these songs begins to emerge - not all of it pleasant - but the naive romanticism, the lush pianos and the rich, golden hues of the production provide a gloss and a sheen which imbue a truly timeless quality to these songs. The arrangements build layer upon opulent layer to the point they seem ready to burst only to be punctured, for example, by Tihista's uncontrolled lust for his girlfriend. ('Sequisha Chiungade Picante').
Elsewhere, 'Happy People, Shut Your Mouths' is the finest lyric Morrissey has yet to write - a tirade of self pity but with a choral backing that elevates it to a song of infinite wisdom; 'You Don't Make Sense' begins with a murky guitar figure that gently gives way to a pulsing disco beat and then to an addictive electric guitar which screams 'SUN' and 'BEACH' - even though Tihista is in the process of dumping a girlfriend, maybe just because of her broken English; 'On My Way' could be straight out of the Fred Neil song book - a cheery optimistic closer in which Tihista appears to be finally taking responsibility - the synth hook emerges mid-song (and doesn't go away) like a carefully-crafted Richard Carpenter masterpiece, except it has a throwaway feel which had me listening repeatedly, in awe at how it could sound so immediate yet so rooted in conventional songwriting. I've since re-visited Matthew Sweet's 'Girlfriend' and experienced a similar feeling.
'Modern Standard' appears to be a collection of old songs which Tihista has been looking to release for some time. It's unlikely to make many end of year lists (except mine) which typically crave innovation and originality. I would argue that these songs stretch an already sophisticated songwriting template, revealing themselves as examples of perfectly crafted modern pop with a lyrical twist that absolutely sets them apart from and above anything of its kind I've heard for a very long time.
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The second album in a relatively short time from a wonderfully talented and criminally unheralded songwriter. Tihista's relationship with Broken Horse records seems a nicely dovetailed fit and I hope it works out for both parties.
This is, as are all his releases, a gorgeous collection of songs about love, life and living. His songs have a wonderfully mesmeric quality to them. They draw you in and seem to inhabit the space in and around you without you being able to quite grasp them. A musical Medusa, bound to enchant.
To be honest here I could quite happily listen to Tihista sing just about any old rubbish because his voice is that gorgeous. Thankfully, this Mr. T doesn't see fit to deliver rubbish unlike a lot more "critically acclaimed" artists. He is one of a dying breed that seems to treat songwriting as a craft and hones and polishes his songs till they sparkle.
I tried recently to describe him to a friend of mine and the lame melange I could muster was a mix of George Harrison, Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. Now that is probably a million miles away from where he might describe himself but I think you may know what I am driving at.
Early indications of a favourite song of mine would be Just Can't Get High Anymore with a wonderfully wrought buzzing guitar rifling through the song. Try The Veal has a wonderful, light musical touch a la Van Dyke Parks or Harry Nillsson but shot through with a scathing lyric. Sweet and sour. Texas Girl has this desperate yearn to have the night carry on..just one more drink and dance.
The trio that recorded this album all serve the songs perfectly. Like Lemonheads without Dando's annoying drug baggage or Sugar if someone cut the electricity to Bob Mould's house. According to the final track KT is on his way to your heart. Be smart and let him in. You won't regret it.
As the man himself sings, if "it's looking like the end of the world" then these tunes would suit me just fine to head into the apocalypse. Buy the heck out of this album and be smarter than all your friends.
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