[sic] Magazine

State Shirt – This Is Old

It’s been four long years since I last heard anything from Ethan Tufts and his State Shirt musical outlet. ‘Don’t Die’ was one of the most angst-filled records I’ve ever heard, yet – thanks to some modern electronic touches and Tufts’ way with a melodic hook – it was surprisingly addictive; believable rather than whining. ‘This Is Old’ proves that the fire in the man’s soul remains undiminished and ten more emotionally-powered songs have now emerged.

Openers ‘This Is Old’ and ‘Time To Go’ revolve around distant keyboard hooks. The verses appear to be a passengers on a rollercoaster that can only hurtle downwards but then the chorus kicks in and uplifts the whole song to a more blissful place. For ‘Fell Out Of The Sky’, there’s a welcome vulnerability to Tufts’ vocal before it strains to the inevitable melodic hook. That’s the key to most of State Shirt’s success: emotional desolation followed by an escape route.

Few songs deviate from this formula (and since he’s good at it, there’s no real need to) but ‘Computer’ is a successful experiment which revolves around a catchy guitar and synth arrangement topped off by the yearned lyric of ”Future… Hope”. ‘I Hate California’ is ushered in on a female vocal loop with Tufts on despairing but riveting form. In short, each song has a little touch to make it different enough from the last one. Only on ‘Hospital Hill’ does the tactic come unstuck as the song desperately needs a kick up the backside to deliver a sense of urgency.

For ‘Don’t Die’ I compared the music to Radiohead circa ‘The Bends’ and ‘This Is Old’ – in an ironic reflection of its title – is arguably more of the same. However, it’s to Tufts’ credit that he’s developed an almost flab-free record that knows just what buttons to push to grab the casual listener’s attention.



More of Jon’s Reviews can be found at his blog, Leonards Lair