The self-titled album is a landmark moment for an artist. Usually, it’s their debut – their introduction, a roadmap of their ideas and ambitions. Less common, and more striking, is when a musician releases a self-titled piece of work mid-way through their career. From The Beatles to Blur to Beyoncé, artists have long taken advantage of the concept, whether to make a political statement, assert their creative freedom, or seize it as an opportunity for reinvention or reclamation.
For Carter Tanton, it’s all of the above. Recorded in the house that he grew up in – now empty and for sale – the album marks the end of an era for the Maryland native. His previous releases, Freeclouds and Jettison the Valley, were each birthed in the same way: written, recorded and produced within an inch of perfection. On his third album, Tanton throws all that out the window. The subtle creak of old floorboards, the almost-too-detached vocals, the lo-fi (even by his standards) production: the imperfections are the point here. It’s audacious, and something the Tanton of Freeclouds would likely have scoffed at, but Carter Tanton contains easily the most atmospheric work of his career.
In another change from his earlier work, the album finds Tanton stepping out of his comfort zone lyrically as he writes about racism in America. ‘Steep Angles On The Back Wheels’ is, in Tanton’s own words, a Trump-era follow-up to Sinéad O’Connor’s ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’. Written soon after the 2017 Charlottesville attack, he reflects on a Confederate statue that he was able to see from his front door before it was removed, and the guilt he felt having never learned the horror it represents. ‘Out Fayette’ begins as a touching tribute to Tanton’s home of Baltimore, but is tainted as he is reminded of the brutality of its police force.
Carter Tanton’s third album finds him in a moment of transition. At last allowing himself the room to make mistakes, to bask in the imperfections, to broach subjects he may have felt unable to dissect before, he’s made a self-titled album worthy of its name.
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