Tanner Gordon – Start Again – Album Review
There was a week back in October last year that I was introduced to the music of Tanner Gordon, both as an artist, and as a member of his band The Unfortunates; it wasn’t your ordinary quick hello – I ended checking out a whole plethora of what the man was up to and posted up all kinds of tunes right here at these very pages of ours, including a song called “Safe,” that would go on to become track number one on what was then, still his upcoming album, rumored to be called Start Again. Then this October that just passed here in October, we revisited Tanner’s music in a new review, which not only confirmed the title was now set in stone, but we even got to hear “Start Again” for ourselves at long last! Lastly, just the other night, you would have been able to hear both of those songs for yourselves if you tuned into the SBS Podcast – I played both “Safe” and “Start Again” in a double-shot to give ya a sample now that Tanner’s first new solo record since 2008 is officially out & available for ya. Don’t panic if you haven’t had a chance to check that out yet – you know we’ve got ya covered – click right here to go to the show!
And there you go – you’re more or less caught up to where I am myself now – so let’s dig into the rest of what we’ve got – there are still another six cuts on this record I haven’t said a word about yet. “Safe” is the song Tanner chose to begin the new record – you can read about that song further by clicking here to go to the previous review I wrote up on it last year, but suffice it to say, I’m stoked on this song still to this very day. Heck, that’s why I played it on the show, are you kidding me? You know I try not to waste anyone’s time with a lackluster cut, so you bet I played “Safe” as part of our show’s introduction to Gordon’s music – he’s got this whole like…Jimmy Eat World type-vibe goin’ on to fire up his record…tons of punch and personality in the music…it genuinely makes for a great first cut. I might have ended up playing the second track/title-track “Start Again” first on the SBS Podcast, but that was simply for the purposes of the flow of the show – mind you, it’s also another solid glimpse of what Tanner’s music is like to experience & another verifiable early highlight within the set that is guaranteed to get people to listen to the rest to follow. Love the drums in this tune and the way the bass-line grooves are as smooth as the day is long…that instrument in particular reminds me a lot of the way the song “Juarez” by Better Than Ezra is played on the Closer album. Different parts, different lines, different songs altogether – don’t get me wrong – but a very similarly smooth touch on the bass that is as inviting and warm as music can be to experience. “Start Again” is an excellent example of Tanner’s ability to take a song from good to great though…listening to the power surge into this track is vibrantly refreshing; it feels like change is coming right around the corner, and I’d reckon that’s a lot about what this record is all about at its core. “Start Again” is one of the advance singles I got my hands on early before the full album came out – you can read more of my thoughts on this track by clicking here to learn what else I can tell ya about this cut, and you can check out the video supporting this single-worthy tune for yourselves below!
“Lose My Mind” was the first truly new track to me in the lineup at track number three, and it’s one that brings out the sweetness in Tanner’s music for sure. He might be losing a grip on his senses, he might be losing control of his thoughts and emotions…but he’s reminded us here that “it was all beautiful” before any of that happened, and that’s likely the way it’ll remain from his perspective long after, whether he remembers that’s how he feels or not. A quaint & friendly tune that beckons you to listen without even remotely trying to force ya to, the natural ease of the melody that runs throughout “Lose My Mind” makes this track an easy to listen to affair – and I dig the fact that, for as welcoming & inviting as this song appears on the surface, the lighthearted sound upon the surface is masking a much deeper set of thoughts & feelings underneath. A genuine case of the closer you listen, the more you’ll get out of it – “Lose My Mind” will be one of those cuts that people are out there singing along with long before they even realize just how much strength, wisdom, and grounded perspective there is within Tanner’s words. It’s a very humble, innocent, sweet, and straightforward tune that’s tellin’ ya like it really is – so pay attention like you should be folks…it’s as catchy as it is insightful – and yep, “it WAS all beautiful,” 100%.
“My Own Eyes” is a solid storyteller singer/songwriter type-tune that is fully loaded with imagery and details for your ears to absorb. Tanner’s got a great way of looking at the world through those eyes of his, and coupled with a gift to express himself through the music he makes, it’s artists just like our Canadian brother here that are often looked up to by the younger generation to get some perspective. “My Own Eyes” sparkles with melody and more stunning warmth from the bass-lines; it’s a more involved cut to a degree in terms of its structure and what’ll connect with the people out there – there’s no question that in comparison to the opening three cuts, this fourth one will have to battle a bit more for your instant affection. Overall though, you can hear the writing is there, the execution is solid, and there’s still enough goin’ on through the details and imagery in his words to keep everyone engaged, even in what’s a more noticeably low-key & mellow atmosphere like you’ll find Tanner inside of here. Gordon must be getting older like I’ve been getting older…he seems to be a bit focused on fading memories and trying to hang onto his thoughts before they leave him permanently – and believe me, I feel that…in fact, I panic about stuff just like almost daily as I try to maintain the ol’ brain over time. He’s searching for the way forward, while reflecting on the past – “My Own Eyes” is definitely confirmation that Gordon’s got a lot goin’ on upstairs & thinking about life from an evocative & empathic perspective that genuinely feels the connection between where he’s been & where he’s going. It’ll probably take a few spins for “My Own Eyes” to get its due credit, but it’s a quality tune in this set.
“Over” was also from the original couple tracks I had listened to in advance of Start Again’s release, way back in October of last year. Still one of my favorites in the sense that I feel like “Over” brings out the quintessential Canadian in this artist more to the forefront of what we hear than many of the others by comparison – Tanner’s like a young Raine Maida here; I really dig the way he sings this song. I am genuinely surprised that it didn’t become the final cut like you’d almost assume a song called “Over” would be in the context of a full lineup of tunes…but hey, I ain’t complaining. You can read my thoughts in the original review from last year – rest assured, I stand by’em now as I always do – if I hadn’t planned on playing Tanner’s music right towards the beginning of our most recent podcast episode, I would have tossed “Over” right in there…it just seemed like “Start Again” made that much more sense earlier on. Anyhow. That’s neither here nor there. “Over” fits snugly right into the center of this album, pumps out a solid dose of melodic sound with a distinct Canadian tinge to it – it’s tracks like this one that make me proud to support the music being made in this country we share I tell ya; it might be a massively subtle tune in many ways when considering its sound and design – but Tanner’s played “Over” with fierce passion that sounds like he’s got that live-wire electricity running straight through his energy on the mic. The next track to follow, “Empty Promises” will also recall another essential Canadian act to mind – Gordon gets his Tragically Hip on here, and makes the sound work well with his own twists on it. Guitar-wise, there’s a ton of comparable depth to be found, especially in the solo – I freakin’ LOVE the solos in this song and the mesmerizing vocal hook Tanner brings to the mic shortly after. “Empty Promises” is the kind of cut that carries real weight with it…you feel the seriousness that comes along with this particular track, but it’s more than welcome. Everything about “Empty Promises” felt like it was played with real purpose, intent, and passion combined…I don’t know about y’all, but that’s a pretty irresistible combination of ingredients in my opinion, and Tanner puts’em all to perfect use at the start of the second half of Start Again. Read the full review on “Empty Promises” from this past October right here.
I probably feel a bit similar towards “Brother” as I did towards “My Own Eyes” – I don’t think either of these tracks are necessarily gonna set the whole world on fire, but they’re certainly both quality tunes that show the depth within Gordon’s songwriting. I suppose the main difference you’ll find, and why these two tracks tend to hit a bit different, is that you often find that real show-stopping moment or hook that can’t be denied right up front within Tanner’s tunes, and both “My Own Eyes” and “Brother” seem built of a much more even-keeled consistency that doesn’t really have that one irresistible spark as accessible as you’d find in the other songs for the most part. Still a solid representation of Gordon’s music & sound, and the kind of material he chooses to write – he gives everything a naturally personal vibe to it through the way he sings his songs with such a vibrant connection thriving between him and his words, even in a more delicate setting like you’d find on “Brother.” Dig the man’s harmonies when they show up…I like the endearing sound of the guitars in this tune – and by about halfway through, I felt like this song seemed to continually flex more of a pull towards it each time I listened. The final switch that Tanner makes in terms of the direction of the structure, hooks, melody, and even what’s happening in the backing vocals…it all stacks up to put him on remarkably solid ground by the time this song has wrapped up. I’d be willing to bet that “Brother” goes on the pull people in more & more over time & experience listening to it just like it did with me – it’s mellow, it’s chill, but it IS a real beauty too, and features many contrasting thoughts, feelings, and emotions that make this a memorable moment.
I was probably the most on the fence about the inclusion of “You’ve Seen Too Much,” though I’ll admit, it still sounds like it fits well within the context of this album thematically AND sound-wise. So what’s my beef then you ask? Great question! It’s just a personal preference thing/stylistic choice that Tanner makes in the writing here that tends to get on me after listening to as much music as I have throughout the years. I call it the Bryan Adams effect…or punchline writing – even if it doesn’t come along with a joke; it’s that kind of line where you get the dramatic pause…
………and eventually the follow-up line you knew was coming atcha, which is almost always certainly the title. I use “The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You” as an example, but “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” would also qualify…you can hear those pauses in your head even now as you’re reading this, and you know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t get me wrong…I like the sound of “You’ve Seen Too Much” overall…reminds me a bit of what you’d find on Palo Alto’s Heroes And Villains record, crossed with something a bit more indie Canadian like Doubting Paris…obscure references I know, but cool ones in my books. Anyhow – “You’ve Seen Too Much” still has plenty going for it, a stellar breakdown mid-song, and a style of writing that I’d still have to acknowledge is effective, tried, tested, and true; the masses out there LOVE moments they can see coming – it’s only grumpy-ass critics that think they’ve seen & heard it all like myself that get bent outta shape about stuff like this – YOU, will likely love it all. You’ll find no objections from me…Tanner still puts in a quality performance, the details are all still where they should be, the musicianship is as on-point as it has been, production too – we all like what we like & we all have our favorites – if “You’ve Seen Too Much” is yours, then all the more power to ya.
If you’re listening closely to these tunes and Tanner’s lyricism, you’ll find he’s actually worked in the title into a few tunes – “Time” being one of them. It’s a small observation that I’m sure many of you would easily pick up yourselves in listening – but it’s also another really effective tool in Gordon’s arsenal that helps bring the whole theme of Start Again closer together from track to track and keep the concept fresh in our minds as we listen. I will say this…it’s interesting to me that, if I was to close my eyes and just listen to the music itself…it almost plays like a slowed-down version of Hootie And The Blowfish’s “Time” melodically to a degree…I’m sure it’s random coincidence, but it’s a unique & interesting one for sure. Again, different tunes at the end of the day – Tanner’s no Darius Rucker, but alas, not too many of us are…in fact I know of only one…and it’s pretty forgivable to not be THAT superhuman when it comes to the vocal department – Gordon’s got his own thing goin’ on and that’s already plenty special enough as it stands. Truly, it’s because of the endearing personality and natural charm he brings to his music and melodies that quite often tends to be THE essential ingredient to it all…the glue in what makes his words stick to our hearts & minds as we listen, and there might be no finer example than you’ll hear on “Time” when it comes to all that. I dig the gentle slide in the guitars & tender strum of the acoustic supporting it…I felt like Tanner was searching a little for the real core of the melody within the first thirty seconds or so of this track, but right after, the man glides into some of his very best for the rest to come.
Though it IS the final track, it ain’t goodbye – it’s “So Long” for now is all. Now that Tanner Gordon has got his first solo record since 2008 under his belt, I’d completely bet on the man to put out tunes a bit more on the regular as a solo artist outside of the music he’s making in The Unfortunates. Dude’s like this guy have a ton to offer the scene…and it’s never wrong to admit that one project, one band, one vehicle for the ol’ creativity isn’t gonna quite cover it all – heck, it’s a good thing in this musical universe of ours…it leads to side-projects & solo stuff…we welcome all that as fans. More of something we already love? Sign us up, right? I love how Tanner wrapped this record up – truly – trust me when I tell ya, were it not for “So Long” coming out as stunning as it has to finish this album off, I’d have been all over the guy about not having “Over” as the final cut. But that’s the reality, and here we are – “So Long” is actually one of my favorites on the record and a real highlight for Tanner’s harmonies in the hooks of the chorus – this track is warm like sunshine…and those guitars! Man…every time he exited the hooks for the last time, and the music took over again on this last cut, it was a serious treat to hear the way that this final song drifted out beautifully into space, taking us with it willingly every single step of the journey straight through to the end. All-in-all, “So Long” FEELS like the conclusion to this record – and anyone that’s ever read my reviews, knows full-well I’m a big fan of an audible cue to tell us that the experience has come to an end…because hey, we gotta know when to stand up and cheer, right? It’s nice when things lineup to a comfortable point where we all know that a record is finished without having to question whether or not more would be coming afterwards…it creates that feeling of completeness we genuinely crave but so rarely often find – “So Long” makes for a perfectly subtle finale.
Make sure to find out more about the music of Tanner Gordon from his official website at: https://www.tannergordon.ca
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