Tristen - Charlatans At The Garden Gate

Tiffany Daniels 07/02/2011

Rating: 5/5

For a long time Nashville has been recognised as a catalyst in the American music industry, but in the past few years Tennessee State has produced enough credible up-and-coming acts to host an international barn dance. It comes as no surprise that a league of artists have taken up residence in the city; among them, Chicago native Tristen Gaspadarek. Charlatans at the Garden Gate is the real life troubadour's debut album, set upon the masses this February by American Myth.

Some of the tracks included on this release have been available on the internet for over a year. “Special Kind of Fear”, “Battle of the Gods” and “Eager for your Love” are notable, but it's “Matchstick Murder” and “Baby Drugs” that have done the leg work - the first was released as a single last summer, and the second has already achieved a high ranking figure on the Hype Machine's download chart. Even before considering the quality of her work, you'd expect Tristen's success to be a shoe-in. Unfortunately that's not so. The musician and her entourage perch on the edge of recognition - and as long as that's the case, I'll continue to bash quotable words like 'stupendous' and 'awesome' into my keyboard.

Because those two words embody what's been on display here. Forget any of the artists plugged in your standard Tips for 2011 list - Tristen is the only name you need to pay attention to. Her album is a blend of Phil Spector, Jewel and Jenny Lewis - reeled in, chewed up and spat out like a brawl at a whisky bar. Her lyrics par effortlessly with rolling melodies; the combined effect will make you crave a broken heart, just so you can calm down and carry on. It takes a lot of skill to make your listeners genuinely call out for hurt.

The most poignant moment is closing track “Save Raina” - bound up in childhood fantasies and tales of life on the high road, it's comparable to any of the classic narrative songs. “Avalanche” comes in a close second; its profound sentiment is set to a comforting hush that echoes throughout Charlatans at the Garden Gate.

A fair few established singer-songwriters plan to release material in 2011, and as early as the second month it's implausible to start calling Record of the Year. Tristen's certainly taken a stab at the title, and her attempt is admirable, especially for a debut.