I Was Submerged – Tulsa

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A clue as to what era this music hearken backs to arises in the third track “Mass”: a humming electric sound laden with feedback encroaches on an oversimplified distorted guitar solo and a nasal voice awash in reverb. It sounds as if Tulsa is cherry picking from the Monster era in R.E.M.’s discography. Nevertheless, Carter Tanton (lead vocalist) is more coherent, and surprisingly, less annoying than Michael Stipe. Moreover, Tulsa seems to prefer production refinement to the R.E.M. rawness. As the album progresses, it's clear that the R.E.M. reference can't completely adhere, as Tulsa has their own style that is far too morose and haunting to belong in another band's category.

The trouble with the album is that it may be too homogeneous. The lo-fi, highly reverberated vocals are omnipresent in each track, with an accompaniment that rarely jumps into the foreground. Each track contributes to an overall sound that is consistently the same. This can be limiting. In the dramatic rock-out of “#2” there's a chance for the music to reach out and slap someone in the face. Ultimately though, the melted cymbal crashes, the blurred keyboard sounds and the overlapped guitars brew together in a large echo chamber, yelling voice relegated to a whisper, subverting the possibility of an aesthetic escape from the lo-fi ghetto.

On the other hand, this homogeneity and apparent procedural songwriting is what allows Tulsa to lock into a unique sound that they can claim as their own. One can sense the purposefulness in their sound; it doesn't want to budge, and perhaps trying to climb over the wall of reverb they've built might throw the album flat on its face. In this sense I'll go full circle and call this homogeneity admirable. There are far too many bands whose hyperactive efforts to find a “new” sound result in an album that is ridiculously similar to the outlandish macaroni-art of a five-year old: a whole lot of colorful macaroni, but, little to no art (a blanket apology to the valiant artistic efforts of my nieces and nephews). Yet, in I Was Submerged, Tulsa sticks to their guns and play how they want to play, despite the possibility of being classified as same-o, same-o.