September 06, 2005

Kevin Tihista "Home Demons, Volume 1"

Kevin Tihista may very well be the best pop composer you've never heard. He's a Brian Wilson on a Jandek budget, and as hyperbolic as these things may seem, it's true; Tihista has released three extremely wonderful albums over the past few years and had a brief stint on a major label; his most recent record, Wake Up Captain, was easily one of the best records of 2004. One must consider, though, that Tihista makes his music by himself in his tiny Chicago apartment, only wandering out now and then to a nearby studio, where like-minded souls await this pop maestro. Discovering Tihista naturally elicits two feelings: joy that you've discovered his music and regret that you hadn't heard of him sooner.

If one were to describe Tihista's songwriting in one word, it would be simple: romantic. His songs are pretty and heartfelt; he has the keen ability to capture the most basic of emotions, and what he does, he does quite well. "Can I Count On You?" is as soft and as sensitive and as pleading as the title would suggest; "I Don't Blame You" offers up an apology in a beautiful, heartfelt way; "Sweet" (a demo version of a Wake Up, Captain song) is just as sweet and as saccharine as you'd expect from a song called "Sweet." His cover of Dave Mason's "We Just Disagree" is also beautiful, and it passes for an original Tihista composition; if it leaves you scratching your head thinking "Have I heard this before?" then you are not alone.

For most of Home Demons,Tihista played and arranged these songs from the confines of his small apartment, leaving the listener to go think, "Wait...these are HOME DEMOS?!??!?!" One listen to the "kind of sucks" song "15 Hundred Miles" will win you over. It's a beautiful, sunny pop song, clearly inspired by the Beach Boys, but clearly an original song all its own--and it makes you realize just what kind of wonderful service Parasol Records is doing by releasing his music. But not everything works; "Jim Henson's Blues/You're Not Bad" and "Do You Know What We Should Do Now?" are kind of self-indulgent rockers that don't quite share the overall feel of the record. (And, for the record, the "track 11 kind of sucks" comment is in reference to the British version of Home Demons, Volume 1, which contains twenty tracks.)

Not only is Tihista talented, he's also extremely prolific. Home Demons, Volume One is merely the first in a multivolume series; rumor has it that he has ten CD's worth of material in this 'demon' form stockpiled for release. If such is true, then the world's in for a real treat. This reclusive pop composer's name might not mean much to you, but please, please, do yourself a favor and rectify this situation! You'll be most glad you did.

--Joseph Kyle

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