T. Thomason wages war with himself to an epic pop soundtrack on his self-titled LP.
Our teenage years are when our bodies and minds are at war with themselves and big changes happen, but it’s once we enter “adulthood” that we really figure out who we are. Even then we don’t always figure it out. T. Thomason has gone through plenty of changes over the last few years, and his self-titled debut record is a document of struggle and eventual rebirth.
Thomason was 21 when he last released a record — 2016’s Sweet Baby EP — and the long gap has seen his taste shift from rock and roll to modern pop. Thomason’s honest and personal lyrics fit well within the genre, and T. Thomason successfully walks a narrow tightrope: vulnerable without being an open book, brash without being excessive, inward-looking without being alienating.
I have a confession to make: I am not a poptimist. This record, however, is making me reconsider this hardline stance. I think it’s the lack of pretension and contrivance that makes it so welcoming. Thomason has made a record to loudly sing along with, no doubt about that, but it’s filled with self-reflective songs that aren’t trying to speak to grand truths about love or society.
You can trace Thomason’s journey through T. Thomason. “Birdsong” starts the journey at full throttle with Thomason screaming to the heavens about finally seeing the world for what it is. Towards the end, he sets up what will happen at the end of the record by singing “Send me away, out to the farm.” The next few songs find him grappling with reality. On “Loser,” he acknowledges he is one “When you get to know me,” but immediately spins that into a pickup line. On “Lana’s America,” Thomason brings up images similar to those Lorde conjures up in “Royals,” but realizes they’re just illusory. Nonetheless, he can’t shake himself from them.
“Need You” is a turning point. He gently sings of visceral terror: “Woke up screaming, muscles seizing, finding faces in the ceiling again.” He then reaches out for help from the unnamed “you,” and suddenly the song morphs into a rock number. The album mellows after this sudden loss of control. “King of Spades” feels like a song bathed in the light of fireflies. Thomason comes to terms with his King of Spades moniker: “I’m always digging my own grave.” He paints more dreary pictures on “Nuclear Blue.”
But then things change again: “Life on the Farm” perfectly calls back to “Birdsong” but shares none of its DNA. It’s a simple guitar ditty about Thomason’s newfound happiness, and the recording even makes it sound like he’s just putting his thoughts onto a cheap voice recorder out in the wilderness. The journey ends with Thomason’s vocoded vocals recounting parental guidance on “Bliss.” Even with the monstrous-sounding vocals, it’s a tender song with a simple distillation repeated near the end: “Past all your fears you will find bliss.”
T. Thomason is a record of intimate scope but infinite potential to lose yourself in.