Review – TBASA / Caffeinated Funeral Songs (2019)

Much like me, TBASA, who I met about ten years ago playing in a Michael Jackson cover band, releases a solo album about once per year, generally playing and recording everything himself. Much like Beck, who may follow a textural, organic record like Morning Phase with the glossy pop of Colors, genre-hopping TBASA makes albums that are quite different from each other but share the same songwriting signature, rendering the backwoodsy Brevity is its Hallmark and the poppy, tuneful Don’t Say Sucks roughly equally good albums.

Caffeinated Funeral Songs, like its predecessor, showcases Tim’s acoustic guitar-and-voice side very well with minimal yet fully textured and dreamy landscapes created by reverb and soft sonic touches. There are no full drum sets, house arrangements, or rapping this time around. (But there very well might be on next year’s album. Next year’s album might feature piano on every track too. Who knows? That’s the great thing about these albums.) At least three of these songs are older, including “Downward Slide,” which happens to be the first TBASA song I ever heard. It works well as the opening cut here as it is, probably more than any other song I can think of, the prototypical TBASA song. Don Farwell, who my pals in the Stereo Creeps record with, recorded this track, and the seriousness of Farwell’s craft is evident year. What surprises me is that, with the transition to the second song, which is recorded by Tim himself and features a prominent electric bass alternating between steady root notes and some cool little runs, probably in some kind of non-studio setting, there isn’t any kind of noticeable drop-off in production quality, which is a testament to both Tim’s growing production chops and the improving quality of home recording technology. The sound and feel remains consistent throughout the album.

I was not disappointed to hear three familiar songs. Sometimes when I am recording a new record I find that some older song that I had never recorded, never recorded well, or never really “finished,” is a perfect song for the current project. I also don’t think I have heard a recorded version of “Wishful Fisher” until now. When I was in Marnie with Tim we rehearsed the song early in our formation, I forgot about it, and towards the end of our run it briefly became part of our set list. (There is YouTube footage from the Can Can to prove it.)

Maybe I’m biased due to an immediate “Hey! I recognize that song!” reaction with three songs, but Caffeinated Funeral Songs has more of an immediacy to it than The Empath and the Hypervigilant. Although they are similarly dreamy acoustic sets, I would say Empath was more of an “alone in a cave” quality, whereas Funeral Songs feels more “intimate” or “at home.” (Similarly, to my ears Good Good Good is Tim’s “space” album.) It has a heavy dose of catchy, with songs like “Mrs. Succubus” featuring a heaping helping of TBASA’s special catchy sauce.

Having not written reviews on a regular basis since lapsed a couple years ago I struggle to wrap up this review, saying something along the lines of “This is a good record. You should listen to it. There are also many other sides to TBASA, so you should listen to his other records, including next year’s, and the one from the year after that, too.” A couple years ago I probably could have said more than I just said in one paragraph. The new version of WordPress also has a lot more paragraph functions and such that pop up unexpectedly. I’m rusty and out of it. Anyways, my five-year-old son just yelled from the living room “Dad! I am thirsty for the last of the milk!” with hilarious prosody. There is actually a tiny bit of milk still left, but I will have to hit up a grocery store, hopefully Safeway or Trader Joe’s (the stores with the best milk, for completely explainable reasons that are a lot more objective than “this milk has more of an at-home quality than this other milk with its alone-in-a-cave quality,” which could be the topic for a further review), and get some more milk.

Anyways, keep ’em coming. I’m a middle aged dad now, and I need the inspiration!

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