The Kiwi-to-San-Fran dreampop connection perseveres—including, incidentally, a key appearance this week in Brooklyn as part of the Mexican Summer label’s five-year anniversary celebration.
BY JHONI JACKSON
However you want to call it, whether it’s dreampop or shoegaze, Tamaryn (the group doesn’t mind. The band has been dubbed both, and neither does much justice to their brooding effervescence. Tamaryn (the singer) and songwriting counterpart Rex Shelverton aren’t nitpicking the reference point.
“It’s fine with me as long as it helps people find it and listen to it,” Shelverton says, of either term.
In truth, Tamaryn doesn’t really fit the traditional notion of a band either. With Tender New Signs (Mexican Summer), their sophomore LP, they offer something more creative—something more artistically complete. Explains Tamaryn, “There’s different covers for all of the songs on the record, a different piece of artwork, a series of photos and different symbols that kind of run throughout, and the lyrics kind of go with that. It’s all part of doing the record; it’s one big project.”
For “I’m Gone,” the lush, sway-worthy number that opens the album, the petals of two red flowers illuminated so their fragile infrastructures are visible, a haze separating them against a jet-black background. The artwork for the subtly cheery “Prizma” is similarly bright yet hazy, a sheer material flowing from a circular object, glittering and glistening where the light is concentrated. San Francisco colleague Shaun Durkan, frontman for Weekend, created the corresponding images, which Tamaryn explains are “so important.”
Weighing equally for the New Zealand-born crooner are her words. They’re posted along with the artwork on the duo’s website.
“I was raised by writers, and I’m a big fan of lyrics, really. I think when I listen to music, of course the proficiency and the melody and all of that is part of it, but I kind of see it for the big picture and the whole thing that it paints,” she says.
Lyrically, Tamaryn is somewhat abstract, often mystical and romantic. The melodies are a little sunnier than their 2010 debut, The Waves, and the content leans similarly: “The seed that’s sown grows/ A red rose in the garden goes/ We feel it new soul/ Of a hollow garden/ Where nothing could grow/ Was only stone and coal,” she sings in her breathy tone on “The Garden.” But for Tamaryn, it’s still a reluctant, timid type of positivity—as if she expects to be robbed of it any minute. “Is this a life?” she questions.
“I think that [Tender New Signs] might be at times a little bit more upbeat. Maybe that’s the wrong word…” Tamaryn pauses, then laughs. “[The angst] is still there, and that’s what the title is kind of implying. A moment of hope—a little glimpse of light. It’s a bit more optimistic—but just a bit!”
Tamaryn performs this Friday night, Oct. 11, at the Red Hook in Brooklyn as one of the Mexican Summer “Five Years” celebration, along with Ariel Pink, the Fresh & Onlys and more. The following evening features Spiritualized, No Joy, Connan Mockasin and a host of other indie gems.