Tash Hagz – Singles Review
I always love these situations.
The history of this place is startin’ to catch up with itself at this point dear readers, dear friends. Now that we’re on our way to the finish line of our first decade next year…thinking back on all the thousands of bands & artists we’ve been fortunate enough to work with & listen to throughout the years is almost enough to make a guy like myself crunch a tear or two. Almost. I’ll try to keep myself dry until the official anniversary date in September of 2022 or whenever that is – but suffice it to say that, when someone like Tash Hagz resurfaces on my radar, it’s nothing but a complete pleasure and inspiration to see & hear an artist or band still rocking alongside us all this time. Many of course, we’ve featured throughout these pages of ours in a variety of ways – but at the very start of when sleepingbagstudios first got going, I was working so damn hard around the clock both here on the site, and doing about another million things behind the scenes…that y’all still haven’t met half the people I’ve had the honor of crossing paths with along the way. Technically, I first ran into Tash Hagz back in 2014 here online – yet this would be the first appearance of this blissfully crazy cat on our pages. I worked on a video for a single called “Into My Arms” that never made the official cut, but I do remember the song very well. In fact, I’m just checking out the history between us here to refresh my memory on it all, and apparently I did end up writing a review on “Into My Arms” as well…it just happens to be one of the only ones I’ve written where it went unpublished. I’ll let Tash Hagz fill you in on the blanks as to how that happened. In any event, it was/is a great tune…it takes some tracking down online now, but it’s not impossible if ya know where to look. Anyhow – we’re here to talk about what’s currently happening with Tash Hagz here in the present; the man is cookin’ up a whole bunch of tasty cuts on his way to his debut album – and on that note, you’ll find an offer to get yourself a copy free right there on his site at the moment.
I don’t know a specific date as to when it arrives officially, but you can see the wheels are all turning in the right direction. About a year back, Tash Hagz started releasing music online again, with a couple of tracks called “Manchester Terrier” and “Images Of Imogen” the latter of which would go on to become part of the This Is Tash Hagz EP that was released this year, including two other tracks called “Mankind & Destiny” and “Dependent On” to round out a lineup of three. So we’ll talk about most of this good stuff he’s putting out there in this review today…because I’d assume that at least one or two of those tunes might very well show up in the set-list of the debut Tash Hagz record to come – and even more current for ya, I’ll tell you all about a brand-new single called “The Ballad Of Sanaleigh,” which comes out tomorrow on Friday, November 5th. The bottom line is, this dude’s been plenty active over the past year as he’s been gettin’ his music out there into the world & it sounds like there’s much more to come; as to when, how much, how soon, or how many songs…I do not know – but he’ll make it worth the wait.
“12 minutes of neo-psychedelic, tropical post-punk blasters” is how you’ll find the This Is Tash Hagz EP described…and you’ll get no real objections from me on that…honestly, it’s as good a description as any really could be – trying to pin down Tash Hagz accurately would be a monumental accomplishment within any one sentence, and I sincerely best of luck to anyone who attempts to do so. What I can tell ya is this – I absolutely LOVED the way this sampler began with “Images Of Imogen” – the uniqueness instantly stands out, and the mix of mysterious, curious melody was just about as enticing as music can be without knowing what’s coming atcha…it’s got such an interesting sound at the start that your ears naturally want to find out where this song is gonna go. That being said – if you wanna hear what it sounds like to go from good to great, you’ll also find that here in the evolution of this song as it plays on – which honestly, makes it a seriously strong tune. Like I was tellin’ ya – the beginning is INTERESTING – to me personally, extremely so – Tash Hagz has got that weary spirited Thom Yorke energy goin’ on as it begins…and of course, that’s a style/sound that works for some, and might come across a bit awkward for others. Call it however ya like, Yorke built himself a fairly decent career out of the approach – I’d say there were just a few of you out there that connected with it on their journey to becoming the world’s biggest band & all…and if you read about the history of Tash Hagz, you might very well find that his ties to Thom have come much closer than you’d think. So I’d assume the influence comes through honestly after all I’ve read – and there are more than enough twists that eventually creep in to establish Tash’s own identity on “Images Of Imogen” as it plays on. In particular, the real difference is made right about dead-center of the song as Tash Hagz cruises into the chorus hooks at full strength, revealing a spectacular voice that’s capable of brilliantly serene & flawless & powerful melodies as well – which truthfully, is genuinely one of the best surprises you’ll hear this year as “Images Of Imogen” moves from one part to the next and finds its real strengths. Interesting sound has its own value – priceless in my opinion – but when you hear the added degree of accessibility that comes into the second half of this first cut from This Is Tash Hagz, you can’t help but admire just how much allure there truly is on display. I like the dusty & dark vibes of the beginning a whole lot – but I will admit, I was actually amazed at just how far this first track moved melodically from the verses to chorus as it blossomed & opened right up. Every time I cross the threshold of that two-minute mark I know my favorite moment is coming – and listening to Tash Hagz rise up to reach the full potential of that moment is nothing short of magnificent.
Heading into “Dependent On,” the most recent of the three cuts that have been released until the new single arrives tomorrow – Tash Hagz amps up the intensity and psychedelic vibes with increased energy. Somewhere in between the old-school vibes of something like The Animals or Jefferson Airplane, and the modern-day spin on that sound you find in The Black Keys…with a sensational dose of melody in the main chorus hook that’s like hearing The Strokes at their finest – you gotta dig the combination of versatile vibes of a cut like “Dependent On.” The overall live-wire energy & spirited sound at work in this tune is likely what people are gonna notice the most – but recognize just how much cool shit is in the mix to make that end up being the case – from the wildness of the keyboards, to the essential rhythm & groove of the bass-lines, to the way the guitars will come in every so often to add a fiery burst of color into the mix – and of course, the ever enigmatic personality of Tash Hagz on the microphone. I call it like I hear it, just like I always do y’all – there’s not a doubt in my mind that the entirety of “Dependent On” is gonna hit the mark for the vast majority of you out there listening…but I’d damn near be lying to ya by omission once again if I didn’t say that it’s the chorus of this cut that really makes the magic happen for my ears personally. Which, honestly…is a bold thing to say, and you’ll understand why that is when you hear this tune – there’s SO MUCH incredible detail put into every single moment, so don’t get it twisted – there’s nothing I found here that’s not to like or love – all I’m saying is that the transition into the chorus, is award-worthy. On a technical level, it’s probably by far the simplest part of the whole song, which I suppose is why I’m saying it’s kind of bold to even point all this out – but that’s the reality – the wildness of the verses have their own appeal for sure, and so too does the vibrant instrumentation along the way – I’m just tellin’ ya that once again, Tash Hagz finds a way to turn what’s really good into something outright amazing when he slides right into the melody of the chorus – he gets the absolute maximum potential outta this moment. Truly, it’s a spellbinding moment – and considering how much there is to dig on throughout “Dependent On,” for any singular spot to hit ya as hard as the chorus hit me…I mean…that’s a genuine accomplishment. Because there’s no argument to be made otherwise here – “Dependent On” stands out from beginning to end for one reason or another – in all the right ways – but I’m tellin’ ya folks…listen to the magic in the chorus here; it’s something else.
While the overall sound of “Mankind & Destiny” is probably a bit outside of my own personal taste, there is a ton to appreciate about how this song has been assembled, structured, and played with such noticeable passion & purpose in its combination of message & music. I’d assume any resistance I had towards “Mankind & Destiny” is likely relegated to this particular EP, which mind you, is intended to introduce us to an array of what Tash Hagz creates & succeeds in doing so. We’re all gonna like what we like & love what we love of course – but like I said, I think it’s just the fact that “Dependent On” got me in the mood to rock, and “Mankind & Destiny” leans much more on its Pop-based inclinations. Still a good tune, still executed with the quality of the others I’ve heard, and still a ton of appealing sound in the mix that’s quite likely to earn the attention of many of you out there, and justifiably so. I’ve never once claimed that MY favorites have to be YOUR favorites too – so if “Mankind & Destiny” is your jam, you’ll receive no static from me my friends – you do you, I’ll do me, respectively. More than anything, I think this cut has me appreciating the consistency in the songwriting and the overall results in this set of tunes by Tash Hagz – that’s how I’d describe “Mankind & Destiny” in a single word, it’s consistent. Balanced. Maybe to its own detriment, maybe not. But here’s what I’m tellin’ ya and here’s why I’m right about what my favorites are and no matter how much I love you, you’d be wrong to go against me – look at what’s been written about both “Images Of Imogen” and “Dependent On,” and you’ll see that not only are they great songs to begin with, but they have that defining, unforgettable moment within each of them that makes an extraordinary connection. I don’t know that I found that in “Mankind & Destiny,” and I’d reckon that’s what separates a really good tune from a really great one. There’s no reason to complain about what you’ll hear on this third & final cut from This Is Tash Hagz, but it didn’t quite seem to have that same inspired spark in it to bring us back as quickly as I’m confident the others would. Part of that, is undoubtedly due to the subject matter & theme that runs through “Mankind & Destiny” on the surface in what we hear, and certainly in behind the scenes during the making of this song. As I’ve read, “Mankind & Destiny” was originally written while Tash Hagz was attempting to heal and process the unfortunate passing of his mother…and before the song even had a chance to be put out there as it sat on the shelf and he was still recovering from the loss, he sadly lost his father too. This would have been back in 2007/2010 according to the timeline if I’m getting it correct, and of course, my sincere condolences…just because it’s years later doesn’t necessarily make the losses any easier, and it’s tough when songs like “Mankind & Destiny” can also refresh the memory vividly into the present. That’s a good thing, and a hard thing to go through – you’ll pick up a similar vibe from the push/pull between the light & the dark to be found throughout the colorful sound of “Mankind & Destiny” – but you’ll find what are perhaps the most important pieces of the entire puzzle…the resilient spirit…the hope and the optimism…the beauty in the perspective…these are all reflections of who Tash Hagz really is at his core.
In yet another gear, the new single “The Ballad Of Sanaleigh” will present another dimension of the depth in the sound of Tash Hagz and the versatility in the songwriting, while remaining consistent with the quality you’ve experienced in what he’s released so far. I’d wager that I’m into it more than I was “Mankind & Destiny” and felt like it related a bit more to the sound of the other two songs I’ve had here in review…but I’ll admit, it’s a tougher track to love as well – which is actually kind of documented right there in real-time in the song itself when Tash Hagz sings “why Sanaleigh, take me away, with a song that is dismal and easy to play” – SOUNDS exciting, right? Look…the reality is what it is…mid-tempo tunes are the toughest to pull off in the court of public opinion…”The Ballad Of Sanaleigh” might have to battle a bit harder than some of the other Tash Hagz cuts have to snag your attention, but for those out there that enjoy a storyteller’s style of vibe in the music they listen to, there’s every reason to check this out. “The Ballad Of Sanaleigh” might not move as quickly as the rest do, as its title implies, but at the end of the day, the lyricism still reveals cleverness that captivates, the music & vocals still have plenty to offer your ears through the steady consistency you’ll find in this song. Ultimately, you could argue that Tash has dialed things back to a more accessible design in many ways too…which may or may not be a benefit to him, it’s harder to say – but in terms of sticking closer to the writing in music people are more familiar with, “The Ballad Of Sanaleigh” is a much more straightforward tune in its structure and sound. It’s well played & well sung…it’s just got a push/pull energy that ears have a harder time with is all – and the evidence of that is right there in this very song; when you hear things brighten-up and Tash finds that inspired spark around the 2:30-3:00 minute mark, you feel it…you know that’s the gear he thrives within most naturally…and yep, you want a bit more of all that spread throughout this song as a result of that moment being included too. To circle back to Thom Yorke…I read about a similar thing he went through back at a pub a long time ago, just past the release of OK Computer or somewhere around that time, where a lovely patron came up to him just to tell him that “No Surprises” was about the most dreary & bleak song he’d ever heard in his entire life. To which Thom had to find himself agreeing, because the real truth is that it’s a freakin’ miserable song. Anyhow. “The Ballad Of Sanaleigh” might not go quite that far over the edge with its mix of melancholic vibes, but deep down Tash knows this is definitely going to present some challenges in terms of being a song that’s gonna generate excitement pre-release of his debut album. A quality cut it most certainly is, but it’s written in a way that makes it appeal to a narrower audience and tailored to pretty specific moods…it’s like Tash Hagz found a way to record the storm of a whole sea’s worth of heavy emotions into the tale he’s singing about on “The Ballad Of Sanaleigh” and I’d imagined he’s delivered on the sound he sought out to create here. As to whether or not it’s going to be THE cut to pull you into this dude’s music, that I don’t know – it could very well be for some in the same way I pointed out earlier, and given that it’s played with just as much quality, focus, passion, and inventive musicianship…again, you’ll find no objections from me. I’m probably more partial to the rowdier side of Tash Hagz’s tunes personally, but I also found myself sitting through several spins of “The Ballad Of Sanaleigh” and digging on the real depth in the songwriting and sound it offers as well. Dude’s definitely in the process of creating one seriously diverse debut record – Tash Hagz has given you multiple different gateways into his music through the advance releases out there and available so far; I’ve got no doubt that whatever comes with these tunes on the official album, will be equally compelling, creative, and melodically innovative…this guy’s got excellent ideas, he knows how to execute’em with professionalism & passion, and keep everyone listening engaged & entertained.
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