Tara Jane O'Neil
A Ways Away (KLP207)
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The work of Tara Jane O'Neil has always innately crossed genres and boundaries - like several genies emerging from a single lamp. Every singer wants to be a painter, every guitarist a singer, every songwriter a poet and every producer an alchemist. O'Neil is skilled at all these things and on A Ways Away [KLP207], her fifth album and first for K, she has wielded all of her powers. A Ways Away is a song cycle, generous and concise, direct and uncompromising.
TJO's new LP is primarily the offering of a singer-songwriter, but there is an elegant attention to detail in the mix that will please all those in need of great headphone jams, electronic minimalist drone magic, and heroic adventure. But A Ways Away is driven by the singer and the songs. On this record, she has put her voice out front, and as in the past, the vocals are perversely and meticulously arranged and gorgeously sung. There's compassion and concern, wisdom and heartbreak, moving on and waking up in these songs.
The elements of her live show and her studio craft meet here. There's some sorcery and exorcism, and there are questions that stand on their own. As a dream is surprising and mysterious, so can be her performance, haunting, masterful, arresting. Her ability to divine the finest players in any town to create shifting and often spontaneous bands makes each show unique, a thing of legend. TJO conjures up all of your favorite singer-songwriters, painters and poets as if they are all there in her songs, a dialogic meeting in the air. It is an expansive and dynamic mystery sound. There is space in it, there is volume and electricity in it, and there is no fear. O'Neil coaxes gamelan sonorities or tiny gongs out of her guitar, thick dissonant tone clusters or rapid finger picking to support her mellifluous call.
Contributions on A Ways Away came from Jana Hunter, Mirah, Osa Atoe (New Bloods), Geoff Soule (Fuck), and Jean Cook and Daniel Littleton (Ida). While writing her own music, Tara Jane O'Neil has also collaborated with Papa M, Ida, Mirah, Michael Hurley, Jackie-O Motherfucker and King Cobra, among others; she has scored soundtracks for film and theater; and records instrumental music under the moniker Strange Clouds. TJO was a founding member of some influential and prescient bands back in the day, like Rodan, Retsin, and the Sonora Pine. O'Neil is also an accomplished visual artist whose paintings and drawings have exhibited worldwide; Wings. Strings. Meridians. A Blighted Bestiary, her second book of paintings to appear in the last decade, was published by Yeti last year.
"Ever since she began putting her name on the front of her albums, Tara Jane O'Neil has perfected the art of writing songs that perfectly encapsulate both the comfort of misery and the misery of comfort." - Pitchfork