Kevin Tihista

Home Demons, Vol. 1

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Kevin Tihista is an immensely talented singer/songwriter, but his previous albums have occasionally had a somewhat precious, studied quality. Like Tihista's first three albums, Home Demons, Vol. 1 consists almost entirely of solo home recordings, but this collection of early takes, alternate versions, amusing experiments, and orphaned songs is considerably more low-key. From Tihista's gently self-mocking liner notes to oddball inclusions like "#32" (a pretty trumpet and piano instrumental that suddenly turns into a blast of Carl Stalling-style cartoony orchestral noise) and the utterly sincere soundalike cover of Dave Mason's '70s FM ballad "We Just Disagree," there's a charmingly loose feel to this album. Despite the title, however, many of these songs are as sumptuously arranged and exquisitely produced as those on Tihista's "proper" albums -- rough voice and guitar takes, like the brief, repetitive "Stratford Upon Avon," are the exception -- with layered gems like the propulsive pop/rock sound and multi-part structure of "Sweet" and the new wave throb of "Idiots" the rule. Particular highlights include an early, charmingly ramshackle version of "Wake Up Captain" and the increasingly chaotic, full-band workout "Jim Henson's Blues/You're Not Bad," which bears an unexpected resemblance to the Eels. Although Tihista is not being falsely modest with his declaration that the sludgy rockers-on-the-road pastiche "15 Hundred Miles" "kind of sucks," the giggly in-joke of "This Should Be A Duet (Really)," which intentionally sounds like any one of a dozen cheesy '70s AM pop songs, is one of the most endearingly dorky pop songs in ages, and also probably the most unapologetically catchy thing Tihista has ever written. This kind of giddy humor would be a welcome antidote to the tinge of overt seriousness that has occasionally been Kevin Tihista's downfall. Note: the original U.K. version of Home Demons, Vol. 1 on the Broken Horse label includes an extra seven tracks.

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