Let me start out by saying that Tristan is a pleasure to experience as he progresses in his music career. When I first heard his music about 5 or so years ago I knew he had potential. He also possessed a strong work ethic to pursue his craft and disallowed discouragement to interfere. Then, in 2015 his band released an album called Friends with Benz which was truly a great step forward. Therefore, I was delighted to know he just released a solo acoustic EP, Acoustic #1 which will let me know if he moved even further forward or found a decent foothold in who he has become.
Before I even get into Tristan's latest offering I must pause. With just the simplicity of an acoustic guitar and vocals many things could go wrong. This bare bones structure allows each song itself to stand out because there's no heavy production or reliance on any outside source to make him sound better than he actually is. Each of these songs has to rely on his songwriting capability and his personal delivery to make or break the EP. So, although the premise is simple it's one of the most difficult things to do other than acapella.
As I pressed play and relaxed into Your Somewhere, his first song, I was not impressed. It didn't sound bad or suck in any way but it had nothing to hook me. I felt unsure about what else would filter through my ears. But I know Tristan and those moments where the polish faded is easily remedied shortly thereafter. I shrugged it off and went on to the next track.
I'm glad I sat with it because Feels So Right is all I had hoped and then some! I'm not going to review each song individually from this point. I'll give a summary of the EP as a whole.
If you focus on Tristan's voice alone you'll find a touch of rasp and whisper on the low parts and appropriate power when the song calls for it. He even finds the correct emotions during certain parts to really sell most songs. What might turn you away is that when he really pushes those controlled notes out it sounds a bit like throat-strain. It lacks a certain smoothness that one might feel would be more appropriate for acoustic-only songs. But his vocals are in the commercial zone, meaning many people would probably respond well to it. I do, for the most part. It was one area that I felt he needed to improve on and still might need to. But then again, Jonathan Davis grew on me so there may be nothing wrong whatsoever with Tristan's vocals.
The music by itself isn't really unique and let's face it, nowadays, acoustic guitar all by itself doesn't truly sound original anymore. This is why it's so important to stylize it with personality in the vocals and lyrics which Tristan does well. Lyrically, Tristan tells stories that are relatable and won't depress you in the process. While bands like Matchbox Twenty can truly pull you into a specific mood, Tristan will let you hear what he has to say without bringing you down so you can both rise above it, feel better and go on about your day. You won't really cry or be depressed. That's part of Tristan's magical good vibes at work.
When it was all said and done, Feels So Right was my absolute favorite! The melody stood out and had me singing right along with the chorus by the middle of the song. Even my 3 year old niece stopped what she was doing to come and listen. Down would be a contender for favorite as the melody on the chorus moves me internally and my head externally even though the lyrics talk about being done with a relationship that you know won't work no matter how much love is there.
Don't Lose That Smile is pretty catchy too but when I hear the rapid pauses during the pronunciation of "I" and "Besides" (if I got those words right) it's a big turn off. It's not smooth and takes me out of the mood. But the verses are good enough to bring me back. If that confuses you, what I mean is that the way he sings "I-I-I-I-I" and "Besi-i-i-i-ides" does not work well for Tristan, I don't think. In my opinion, not breaking up the sound of the "I" and leaving it one long note would have kept me in sync. That slight turn-off is sprinkled in another song or two but not near as strongly and won't distract from the majority of what there is to enjoy from Tristan's offering.
On one end of the shovel Tristan brings you into a world of melodies and good vibes by using the power of song. The simplicity of acoustic and vocals-only has a big chance of failing for many but Tristan pulls it off as if he was born for it! Each song is just that, a song; not something forced or an add-on but an actual part of someone else's soul and life. They all stand on their own and aside from the first track, Your Somewhere, each wound up feeling like a hit to me. This could be a commercial sound that most could resonate with. Plus, the lyrics and emotion pull you in as if he was talking to a friend (that friend being you) and you would listen, offer some feedback and then go enjoy your day together. So, maybe I'm saying Tristan reminds me of friendship music. I suppose that could be a new genre. Friendship Rock :)
On the other end of the shovel Although the songs have staying power some listeners may be turned off by a lack of smoothness in his vocal sound. If you're not a fan of throat straining vocals in any way you may find the singing a tad bit out of your comfort zone. Also, if hard pauses during a single word rub you raw, instead of just letting the word carry, you might be quick to skip the track. Fortunately, each song, except the first one, had enough melody to let these things slide.
How deep can I dig this? With 6 out of 7 songs having melodies that pulled me in combined with a friendship feeling I have when listening, I can't go wrong here and you probably won't either. I know Tristan's prior stuff and love how he has progressed over the years. And while I enjoyed his pop rock stuff with a full set of instruments better, this EP has decent staying power and I'm sure I'll listen to it again. And for sure, Feels So Right is going in my personal rotation. I dig Acoustic #1, 7.8 out of 10 feet deep.