Tar & Flowers is the musical moniker for Taylor Hungerford, a multi-instrumentalist playing 60’s-influenced folk infused with the various climates of California. On his first proper release, Indian Summer, Hungerford shows tremendous promise as a musician and songwriter.
As mentioned in my previous review of his live show, Hungerford’s approach to lyrics is Dylan-esque (see album highlight “This Machine”), but musically he tries out a number of different styles, some more successfully than others. “Summer at Michael’s House” is a laid back and breezy beach tune, recalling Jack Johnson or a less-twee Belle & Sebastian. This summery sound continues on the excellent “Ten Ton Heart”, where country rock guitar licks merge with a Caribbean beat, like the Eagles on a Cabo vacation.
Indian Summer has some moments of real beauty, though at times suffers under its musical ambitions, employing a full band when sparser instrumentation would be more effective. The gently finger-picked banjo on “August” opens serenely, though gets distractingly busy during the chorus. The same goes for “Lost”, which has so much going the song itself gets lost in the clutter. Hungerford’s mellow, elegiac voice, similar to Slowdive‘s Neil Halstead, can be as calming as a dose of melatonin, but can just as easily get buried in the mix because of this.
This is not to say Hungerford doesn’t know how to arrange a full band. “Rumor” shows an excellent sense of dynamics, moving between driving acoustic guitars and an expansive, psychedelic choral harmony on the chorus. It’s one of the most interesting tracks on the album, with a vocal delivery that’s reminiscent of Nick Drake. “Opium” also benefits from beautiful vocal harmonies, as Hungerford pays tribute to a woman who “never treats me unkind”.
The album closes with “The Lovin’ Kind”, an Echo Park reimagining of Ryan Bingham‘s “The Weary Kind”. It flows by smoothly on a warm acoustic melody as much of the album does, and is a strong closer for an album that feels like a soundtrack to SoCal. The songs take you from the hills of Malibu, down to the beaches, before driving you across town to end the night in Silverlake. It’s folk music for Los Angelinos, and escapist music for anyone wishing they were here.
Album art is by Kittaya Treseangrat. The record was produced, recorded and mixed by Wolf Kroeger.
Tar & Flowers will be having an album release show on March 2nd at the Silverlake Lounge. The album can be pre-ordered here.
Listen to Two Pre-Release Tracks Here: