Welcome to Boombox Blitz, an artist spotlight series showcasing overlooked singers, songwriters and musicians who are quietly taking over the world.
“These waves come up out of nowhere and they’ll just wash you away,” Nashville pop singer/songwriter Tristen Gaspadarek once reflected on sneaker waves, a term used to describe “an unanticipated coastal wave that is much greater in force and height than the waves that precede it.” Going by simply Tristen, the singer carries that powerful sentiment into her third studio album, appropriately called Sneaker Waves. “I felt like that was a metaphor for death,” she stressed, a somber tone which needles its way into many of the set’s most gutting and crucial recordings. On “Into the Sun,” she drifts between her tear-soaked reality and a blissful past “in familiar places,” as she reminisces on someone who has since faded from this world. “You came to me last night in a dream,” she whispers, feathery but muscular. “I don’t want it to begin again,” she later muses, a swell of icy strings coming to her aid. “Your face was full of color, racing down a river of memories recovered.”
Baring one’s soul can be downright frightening, but Tristen is fearless, uncompromising and resilient. She stares down life’s tragic uneasiness with a plentiful ration of ’80s guitar strokes, as lathered on opening romper “Got Some,” which slithers between the melancholic state of heartache and lingering “on a second-hand throwaway” lover, and “Glass,” featuring the mesmerizing charm and vocal wallop of Jenny Lewis (formerly lead singer and guitarist for Rilo Kiley and now resides as a member of Nice as Fuck) on background vocals. “I don’t have to say goodbye. You don’t get to see me cry,” Tristen chomps down on the latter, a funky number which borrows from the stained refinement of Joni Mitchell with a penetrating Alanis Morissette radiance. The punch and pay-off then come with the hook: “You put me in a glass jar and tap, tap, tap to see how I move…”
From the wistful “Alone Tonight” (forged in the embers of an unexpected crash and burn) and “NYC,” which opens with the distressing, brutal but truthful observation “terrible, horrible humans take every moment for granted / And at the face of death, I’ll ask for a second chance,” to the groggy thump of “Partyin’ is Such Sweet Sorrow” and “Clandestine,” an apt bookend to one of 2017’s most fascinating examinations of post-heartbreak desolation, there is not a single moment to breathe. Tristen wreaks havoc on the brain’s raw nerves, unleashing her paper-thin timbre to exact a merciless but necessary (and often chilling) siege on your emotions. She dares to tame the “Lions” into submission⎯as she slinks away to take refuge on a passing “broken ship.” “I sailed out to sea just before the rains came / Pouring down on me, sabotage from the skies,” she warbles into the somehow-comforting sky, painted with greys, tattered blues and rumbling black. Later, on “Frozen,” she broods hauntingly on desertion and “growing colder,” and you are left feeling drained but satisfied. Tristen has a way of submerging you in the darkness flooding her soul⎯and that’s what makes her one of the most important pop players coming out of Nashville.
Sneaker Waves is out now, and you can spin the album below, via Spotify: