Aaron Lee Tasjan — Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! | Review
Sometimes you find an artist to random that is more local than you expected. Through my search for new Americana and alternative music, I was suggested Aaron’s music. It was through a simple dive into his music videos on Youtube that I found the video to “Little Movies” off his 2016 album Silver Tears. All I noticed was the backdrop. The carousel in video is from Rivergate Mall (our now sadly dead mall that was my mecca as a high schooler). The other landmark that stuck out was the red overpass which connects Vietnam Vets to I-65. My favorite Indian restaurant off all time, The Green Chili, is there (if you are in the Rivergate area of Goodlettsville, TN it’s a must). Because I live in the area, I am surprised I didn’t hear about or even see his video shoot. That alone was enough to get me interested in his work. I found his most recent album, Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, at McKays and snatched it up to listen to. I love his psychedelic alternative sound. I’ve heard his prior work being referred to as having a Beatles White Album-esque sound. I do get that 60s — 70s experimental pop sound that only certain “medical products” can produce. As for Aaron, his website’s bio shows he has been a leaf in the breeze across the states. He is currently residing in Nashville (holler to a local!). The latest in his catalog has an openness and honesty that is reminiscent of the free love movement of the late 60s. His confidence in his sexuality and gender expression is something that I whole heartedly admire on this project. Get ready to dive into the colorful world of Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!
“Sunday Women” opens up the album and you are immediately hit with Aaron’s dreamy kaleidoscopic pop. Lyrically, the song is very simple. Tasjan pontificates on finding a “Sunday Woman”. Looking to the symbology of Sunday, this could refer to a spiritual (not necessarily of the Christian faith) or gentle hearted woman, as Sunday is also supposed to be a day of rest. I lean more towards the meaning of a gentle hearted woman as he sings, “Sunday women are hard to find/ Sunday women don’t break hearts like mine/ When you’re with ’em the stars align”. Alas, his search has not found him this woman and he is left with “Now I sit here with the Monday blues”. It’s a very euphoric sounding song, but it doesn’t grip me that well.
“Computer of Love” is where Tasjan waxes on the rise of social media and its effects on his personal relationships. Sonically, we are somewhere between folk pop and country music on acid. The opening verses speak on his conflicts from the constant connection to the internet. This gets further complicated by negativity from sources like Twitter and beauties that he only falls for over the computer screen. The chorus appears to take on his sense of distance and confusion by this connection, “My little avatar/ I’ll never know who you really are/ Digital clouds and guiding stars/ On the computer of love”. The song is rather infectious and will definitely have you toe tapping by the end of the song. It’s one of my favorites off the album.
“Up All Night” is where Aaron begins to add in his sexuality through his lyricism. I get a kiss of 80s with the sizzling synths humming through the track. The spacey electronic sound makes me want to drive all night while the car floods with neon light of the city. The song is very care free about all the troubles and complexities around him. He’s spent all his money and he may have some unknown medical issues, but the overall vibe is very “water off a duck’s back”. He even waxes on his love life, “Broke up with my boyfriend/ To go out with my girlfriend/ Cause love is like love is like love is like that”. The lines point to a “some come and some go” vibe to his love life. It also is the first instance on the album of Tasjan openly expressing his queerness, which is lovely to hear over the throwback mind-altering sound. This is a very fun track.
“Another Lonely Day” gives a glimpse at Aaron’s mind as the song gives a vibe of depression to it. This is echoed in the melancholy acoustic instrumentation. We continue with beautiful creamy back drop of instruments that are reminiscent of Beck’s Sea Change or Sheryl Crow’s Wildflower in their spacey atmosphere. We start out with him waking up to a new day as he tries to put the worries of yesterday behind him. The opening lines, “I got dressed in what’s left of my clean clothes/ In the lazy little glow of a morning TV show/ I was alone and unknown when you pulled me close”, definitely show a struggle with a depressive mind set. His refugee appears to the person he is with. They’re able to arose some joy back into his life. You can see the haze of this depression blow back in by the end of the song, “ came up with somе plans at the bottom of a couple cans/ To reinvеnt myself as a shining light but as my heart grew dark/ It was pumping smoke and sparks and the reaper laughed as I dashed/ Into the night”.
“Don’t Overthink It” appears to go into the issues of anxiety and owning up to your mistakes. The song has a funky slightly darker undertone. We start off with Aaron telling to us to not overthink it or fall to pieces. The lines, “See you in Hell before it freezes/ Save me a seat right next to Jesus”, seems to allude to the old adage that the road to Hell is paved is paved with good intentions. Tasjan presses on to, “Boy, got to own what you’ve done/ Living under the gun/ Don’t excuse it no more”. He’s never sharp in his words. Offering to not be a stranger and giving his own point of view. He ends with lines, “Boy, every door that you shut/ Every corner you cut/ Goes straight to the bone”, a warning that trying to avoid the closure and apologies that are needed will only cause more harm in the end. The track feels like a play off the malevolent actions people have been taking in this toxic political climate, specifically those on the right.
“Cartoon Music” is yet another more simplistic lyrical venture. Similar to the lyricism of the song, the instrumentation is also more simple. Tasjan adds a blend of organs, synth bass, and acoustic guitar to give this psychotropic tone. The title refers to artificial music for artificial people. Much like a cartoon, these people are very stilted in their presentation. Aaron presses that people like these look beyond their preset route for more, “Look at the colors on your screen/ And think of all they’ve come to mean”. This song also didn’t grab me either. I wish it went a little further lyrically.
“Feminine Walk” was the first song that stuck out to me. First and foremost, I love the shout out to local Nashville Gay Bar Play (which ironically is off of Church St.). The song gives off Bowie vibes. It’s a trippy little folksy number that Aaron does effortlessly. There’s a flamboyant nature to this track that matches the lyrics perfectly. Tasjan owns up to his femininity in a very celebratory way that I wish I could do. We get many allusions to androgynous celebrities personalities such as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Joan Jett, and Grace Jones. He proudly discusses is queerness in the second verse, “Got my smoker’s cough and a Brooklyn loft/ Used a pseudonym, had a crush on him/ Well, I make things for my girl a little too hard/ De Niro’s hotel on the boyfriend’s credit card/ He was a sugar daddy with dollar sign eyes/ I think he started Spotify”. All the while the chorus’s sexy tone lets you know he’s not only proud of his feminine walk, but he’s here to show it off. I love his swagger here. I think he does a fantastic job delivering this statement with confidence and honesty that I love.
“Dada Bois” takes us on Aaron’s quest for love. The track is more piano driven. I get the air of Queen from this song, which maybe from Dada Bois reminding me of Queen’s “Radio Gaga”. It’s a very fun upbeat number with Tasjan’s psychedelic twist. We start out with his openness towards his predisposition to anxiety that he can only quell through self medication (marijuana). All he wants is someone to love him for him. His queerness is open for the world to see as he pines over, “Dada boys, I bleed to love/ Gaga girls, you’re my drug/ My heart is wild but it’s true/ I love anyone it tells me to”. I love his earnest viewpoints of himself in the song’s final lines, “Hanging from the mouth of a beautiful world/ We ain’t nothing but crooked teeth/ Some have holes, some are gold/ We all shine somewhere underneath”. Lyrically, this is one of my favorites of his off of this project.
“Now You Know” continues with this theme of struggling with depressive emotions, specifically self worth. Although rather upbeat sonically, you get this melancholy feeling from Tasjan’s vocal delivery. Aaron feels completely out of luck as he sing, “Nothing is in the cards they haven’t seen/ I’m all out of luck and reasons/ That stuff never last the seasons/ Me, I guess I’m somewhere in between”. The chorus takes us further into his loss of confidence as he states, “Tried to be a poet/ Couldn’t find the words/ Maybe someday they will flow”. Aaron pleas to shake him of this negativity that he has painted his work in and bring back the color he used to see in the world. I respect his confessional nature about his insecurities on this track.
“Not That Bad” puts us in what seems to be Tasjan’s unease as he attempts to create something that speaks to him. Compared to the other tracks on this album, it’s a much more toned down venture. Aside from the piano and slide guitar, Tasjan’s acoustic is the main star of the track. It provides a sadness to the song that pairs well with Aaron’s words. This really becomes evident in the lines, “Tried it slower, tried it faster/ I taped over the master/ And the silence I recorded/ Surely said it all”. Even though he feels so confident with his creation, he gets no response from the label of his creation. In the read, we are left with his melancholy statements of “Life’s in your hands/ It’s rеally not so sad/ Pretending things are not that bad”.
“Got What I Wanted” ends out the album. Lyrically, the song is another simple venture. The music is probably at it’s most otherworldly with spacey guitars and instrumentation that gives the feeling of a vast night’s sky. The theme of letting go of something that is holding you back, be it fear, anxiety, or depression, is what Aaron is trying to get through in order to truly love. Whether this being someone else or himself is left open to interpretation. In his quest to do this, Tasjan state “Then I got what I wanted, got what I wanted/ Never knew it would feel just a little too real”, showing that overcoming this mental struggle has opened a whole new world to him.
Overall, I really enjoyed my listen to the album as a whole. Aaron created a very cohesive work of 60s/70s inspired psychedelic folk rock that makes you want to break out the tie-dye and groove on top of your Volkswagen Bus. I love the openness by which Tasjan is willing to discuss his struggles with depression, sexuality, and gender expression. Although there are low points lyrically on the record, the sonic landscape gives a sense of optimism to the tracks. I look forward to where Aaron will go next after this project. I am also glad I was able to snatch up a physical copy of the CD at McKays. The throwback sound may require a vinyl purchase in the future. I will making a return listen to this album. My favorite tracks:
- “Up All Night”
- “Computer of Love”
- “Another Lonely Day”
- “Feminine Walk”
- “Dada Bois”
- “Not That Bad”
My overall rating: 7 out of 10 Tasjan!…