REVIEW: Tall Friend - tawl friend

Kelly Kirwan

Tall Friend is who you turn to when you’re feeling lonely. The alternative indie outfit—operating out of Washington, DC—string together folk-inspired tracks that revolve around feelings of longing and just-quite-but-not-enough human connection. Their latest EP, tawl friend, proves not only their inkling to have a play on words, but that their music is self-assured even when their lyrics grapple with uncertainty and insecurity. They’ve funneled those gloomier moments of their past (or hell, present) into slightly forlorn tracks that are bound to strum the personal chords of your own memories—as a result, Tall Friend's music is supremely intimate. Each song has the brevity of an emotionally-packed vignette, and as a listener I felt as though I were reading the margin-scribblings of someone’s diary, those snippets of how a person felt on the fringes.

Yet Tall Friend’s songs never seem to drown in the isolation they describe. Rather, they have a wry and no-frills air about them, like on the closing track "guts": “I was 7 when my parents / Moved to separate beds / And I was seventeen when I realized beds / Are not sacred, they’re just places to sleep and give head.”  It’s a song that grapples with the strange dynamic of sex and intimacy, and how the two aren’t always intertwined. "ch"’s lo-fi, semi-raspy vocals go through stages of vulnerability over the three stanzas, the final being a consolation to a friend that feels tainted: “You will always be nothing but magic to me.” It’s strangely sweet, all melancholy considered.

tawl friend reminds me of all the twenty-somethings (myself included) figuring out relationships when there are still tinges of adolescent growing pains lurking beneath the surface. Like the track "cockroach" (just one of the album’s two insect-themed titles), that tackles the subject of longing, not even for a specific person, but for self-security. The neutral delivery feels ironic considering the slight anxiety underneath: “Tell me what you’re thinking / What’s been on your mind / I really hope it’s me ‘cause I have / This obsession with being liked.” If you’ve thought it, it seems like Tall Friend will say it unapologetically.

When the band does take a detour from honest, straightforward talk, there enter metaphors of love (or whatever is closest to it) being akin to an infestation. Like the opener, "termites," which begins with dual imagery of exploration and even slight decay: “I’ll become a big oak tree / And let the beetles eat their way through me / And when they’re done you’ll carve your name.” It isn’t necessarily saying love is destructive, but that it can be messy and not without its marks. Tall Friend isn’t trying to say "stay away," but they seem to be raising an eyebrow to see if we feel the same. And I do.

tawl friend is a pensive throwback to the indie-folk that flared up in the '90s. It’s conversational and a touch sad without being masochistic (for our musical trio and us listeners). Like I said, they’re here for you when you’re feeling lonely.