Apparently, a term attached to Tamaryn’s music is “skygaze,” which one assumes is meant to differentiate it from shoegaze. Presumably, while those guys stared at their shoes in a mixture of pedal-fascination and awkwardness, Tamaryn (and, I assume, others) crane their heads backwards to contemplate the firmament. Thing is, sonically, it doesn’t really sound all that different from vintage early-1990s shoegaze, so maybe it’s all about the posture. More peculiar are the comparisons with goth and death rock (whatever that is), because whilst Tender New Signs may carry all the melancholy hallmarks one associates with shoegaze, it’s actually a very bright and clear album.
A lot of modern indie bands dip into the past in a big and unashamed way, and Tamaryn is no exception, all the while proving that this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. “I’m Gone” opens the album in a flurrying cloud of syncopated drums and jangly guitars riffs that occasionally break apart into saturated, feedback-heavy solos. Tamaryn’s voice is suitably fragile and dreamlike, rather similar to Alison Shaw of Cranes, subsumed into the depths of the mix until it becomes a sort of ghostly lament, to the point that even the most upbeat songs carry an inescapable feeling of despondency. At the same time, the track titles (“Heavenly Bodies,” “The Garden,” “Transcendent Blues”) suggest a sort of psychedelic bliss, whilst the overall aura of the album slowly stretches beyond the initial impression of Slowdive-esque misery and instead evokes ( typically for these hauntological times) pleasant memories of warm summer days. Seems the skies Tamaryn stares/stared at are/were bright blue and irradiated by sunshine.
It all gets a bit same after 20 minutes. There are exceptions to the album’s general formula, with “No Exit” a noisy ballad in the style of Asobi Seksu’s “It’s Too Late,” only not as unpredictable; whilst closer “Violets in a Pool” features clear vocals and moody guitar solos, connecting more with early Cocteau Twins than Lush. These moments are few and far between, but if getting swallowed up in pretty vocals and pleasantly fuzzy guitar noise is your thing, then Tender New Signs checks all the right boxes. It’s unashamed to milk its influences, and Tamaryn has the voice and attitude to channel the alternately morose and nostalgic moods that suffuse the album. Personally, having detected the influence of Cranes in a lot of the music on Tender New Signs, I was immediately driven to turn off Tamaryn and dig out my copy of Forever. Nothing wrong with clearly highlighting your influences, although you do run the risk of reminding listeners why said influences are better.