A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Release Date: 10.1.13
RIYL: Antony Hegarty, Scott Walker, Leonard Cohen, Bryan Ferry, Harry Nilsson, Cat Stevens, The Fresh & Onlys
Tommy Homonym is a gentle soul, broadcasting out of an attic in Jersey City, NJ. A self-described “late blooming artist working with real, as opposed to late-blooming, musicians”. Uglier Than You (i doubt it), his debut album, heralds back to mid-’70s artpop romantic crooners, like Roxy Music after Eno left, with a Harry Nilsson gentility and introverted absurdism, orchestrated by Burt Bacharach. Uglier Than You is as classic as an Orange Amplifier, as warm as a steam radiator on a chill Nov. morning, as real and honest as a notebook left lying open on a table.
Tommy Homonym, the pseudonym of playwright Tom Simes, is a rare bird. He describes himself as “reclusive… inhabiting the fashionable end of the Aspberger’s continuum”. His music has found favor in Israel, South America, and Southeast Asia, but claims to dislike travel, and would rather visit those places virtually, “while still keeping his shoes on”. Despite his reluctance to leave the house, Homonym recently posted an update from Dallas, where the video for his single “Irresistible” was featured at the Dallas VideoFest. Here is a man who clearly values introversion, yet is equally compelled to say something; a sea of contradictions. On top of this, Tommy’s press release is full of sly humor, confusion and misdirection: the plot thickens, grows deeper.
Uglier Than You was sent along by Keith Profeta, of IndieBandGuru, for whom i lend my critical acumen, from time to time. Hell, i’ll listen to anything, and spend probably as much time listening to SoundCloud and Bandcamp links as releases from major label heavy hitters. Demo quality is not a problem, for a reviewer; i strive to see where each individual artifact is coming from. In my experience, many unsolicited submissions from unknown artists are a vain attempt at a little more notoriety; link farming for artists with little substance. I’ll speak plainly: a lot of review requests are from rappers that have been spitting lyrical for about 4 minutes, trying to raise awareness of their newest mixtape. There is little attention to detail, the recordings come across as harsh, unprofessional, rushed: a blind grab to become internet famous.
And then there is Tommy Homonym.
‘Demo Quality’ is not an adjective that can be applied to Homonym, in any capacity. This debut appears out of the ether, fully formed. It is the direct antithesis of flavor-of-the-second trend hoppers. I will be honest, when i receive a download link for an artist that i’ve never heard of, i am full of skepticism. The worst part of being a reviewer is dashing someone’s dreams, telling them, please, for the love of god, please put down the microphone.
The first thing that struck me about Uglier Than You was that the artist had the good grace to send .wav files along, a bit bulkier, but a welcome respite from ugly ear-corroding low bitrate mp3s; a good sign. The next thing to pique my interests was the word ‘mastering’ in the track titles. Here’s a reclusive, self-publishing artist who has the class to actually have his music mastered? It really helps, too. Uglier Than You is easy on the ears, beautifully smoothed and rounded. It stands up next to classic folk-rock standards like Cat Stevens‘ Tea For The Tillerman or Leonard Cohen‘s Songs From A Room.
Homonym was even gracious enough to include album art and lyrics. Picking through the info, i even noticed that this “late-blooming musician” had written songs in a number of different keys, including some exotic ones like Db. Unusual key signatures? Arrangements? An extensive vocabulary, with words like “lagubrious” and “vainglorious”? The world needs more music like this.
Uglier Than You will most appeal to fans of the delicate warble of the lovely Antony & The Johnstons. Tommy Homonym has a similar delicate sensibility, although it is funkier and groovier than Antony’s lovelorn, gothic lamentations. “Irresistible” is the albums first single, with another video coming for “Heavy Rotation”, which just happen to be my two favorite tracks.
I wish more musicians took this kind of care and pride, waited longer until they had something of worth to say. Tommy Homonym has volumes, and deserves to be hard. A notable contender, a sparkling debut from an impressive talent. We will be listening.
Uglier Than You @ iTunes