Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)
There are two types of self-titled albums. The first and most common are debuts (“Allow me to introduce myself“) The second is something else entirely, a manual reset designed to serve as a reintroduction (“You only think you know me“). On his fourth full-length, Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, East Nashville country-to-not-country songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan attempts the latter, as eager to flesh out the contours of his narrative as the exclamation points imply.
For all of the album’s autobiographical tendencies (often taking shape in references to his bisexuality), Tasjan’s search for meaning is most satisfying when he adopts a hedonistic, albeit good-natured, nihilism. The faster the tempo, the glammier the synth, the brighter the key, the more room for pomp and panache, the more at home Tasjan sounds. This isn’t wholly surprising, given the rhinestone cowboy gallop of 2016’s Silver Tears and the enormous hooks trotted out in 2018’s Karma For Cheap—the latter’s “If Not Now When” and “The Truth Is So Hard To Believe” paraphrase Oasis in more ways than one.
Tasjan nails it on “Don’t Overthink It,” with its meaty bass, gossamer guitar line, and matter-of-fact “I know the bad is getting badder/ It doesn’t matter” message. He adopts a similar approach on lead single “Up All Night,” shot through with ‘80s Springsteen optimism and devil-may-care sparkle: “Broke up with my boyfriend/ To go out with my girlfriend/ Because love is like, love is like, love is like that.” So it is.
If the neon car he drives through the galaxy in the video for “Computer of Love” is any indication, Tasjan isn’t especially self-serious. But he’s susceptible to the self-titled trap of needing capital-S something to capital-S say. The album finishes with a trio of meandering ballads that feel meant to offer some positive personal resolution. “Now You Know,” the best of the three, manages a deft minor-key change with the old school tremolo of an electric organ. But Tasjan is at his best when he throws his hands up in gleeful and messy resignation, the kind of mentality befitting an album with this many exclamation points built in. To put it another way: Nice to re-meet you.