In The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein writes: “I may say that only three times in my life have I met a genius and each time a bell within me rang and I was not mistaken.” When I first met Tara Jane ONeil, about 25 years ago—and more particularly, the first time I saw her play—this bell rang. I was not mistaken.
TJO is my friend. But not all friendships are shadowed by—haloed by, really—this firm apprehension of genius, the simple awe that derives from witnessing irrepressible, astonishing forces and capabilities rushing through a fellow human.
These forces have been rushing through TJO from when she was but a kid playing in the hardcore, math band Rodan, through her wide-ranging collaborations with local and international players, through her eight solo albums, which constitute some of the most beautiful, intricate music I’ve ever heard, and which I’ve been grateful to have as a wise, stimulating soundtrack to my adult life. And now there’s Tara Jane ONeil, her ninth solo offering.
TJO describes her new record as a “singer-songwriter” endeavor—a description which could apply to much, if not all, of TJO’s solo work. But there is something uniquely satisfying about this record’s willingness to offer individual songs qua songs and to foreground her voice and lyrics. Unlike some songwriters, whose lyrics have the aura of sophistication because they’re essentially nonsense, or whose lyrics end up pretty banal once deciphered, TJO’s lyrics always repay the effort to discern them. She is a poet at heart, whose chosen phrases and images aim to communicate truly as much as to burrow and sound. As her vocals, lyrics, and melodies emerge into plainer sight on this record, it feels like an act of real, earned generosity. I get the feeling that she’s holding this record out to us, palms upturned, in the gold California sun; I already know it’s going to be one of my favorites.
In her music and life, TJO has modeled a new place to stand, new sounds to make, a new kind of artist and human to be. Her career is all the more remarkable for her music’s willingness to investigate quiet, minor, and fugitive sound even as her career at large has taken no prisoners. We are unspeakably lucky to be alive at the same time of her making and being—to behold, in real time, the unspooling of her unremitting ingenuity, voyaging, and grace.
Los Angeles, 2017
03.15.17 – Manhattan, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge*
03.16.17 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Hall at MP*
03.17.17 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle*
03.18.17 – Jacksonville, FL @ Jack Rabbits*
03.19.17 – Miami Beach, FL @ North Beach Bandshell*
03.20.17 – Orlando, FL @ The Social*
03.21.17 – Tampa, FL @ Crowbar*
03.22.17 – Gainesville, FL @ High Dive*
03.23.17 – Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West*
* w/ Tortoise
04.19.17 – Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater (Record Release Show)#
04.20.17 – San Diego, CA @ The Hideout#
04.21.17 – Joshua Tree, CA @ Taylor Junction#
04.22.17 – Ojai, CA @ Greater Goods#
04.24.17 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel#
04.26.17 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios#
04.27.17 – Seattle, WA @ Gallery 1412#
#w/ Califone and Rachel Blumberg
05.10.17 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott^
05.11.17 – Providence, RI @ Columbus Theatre^
05.2.17 – Northampton, MA @ Iron Horse Music Hall^
05.13.17 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery^
05.14.17 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle^