Article and photos by: Matt Guevara
One of the biggest complaints people have with pop music is its lack of substance. But, as some pop subgenres are starting to demand a more substantial and “real” style of music, indie artists like Nashville’s Tristen Gaspaderek, or just “Tristen,” as most people would know her, are building much needed bridges between genres like folk or rock and the pop scene. With a folk-rock influenced and an almost poetic sound, Tristen’s music takes strong ideologies, raw emotions, and a healthy amount of wit, and wraps it up in a bubbly pop shell.
A long time in the making, the artist we know started her musical voyage as a young kid. Growing up with a musical family, and a father who even had a home studio, it’s no wonder that she chose to move to the sonic mecca of Nashville, and pursue a career in the music world. Since releasing her first EP, Tristen has now released a total of 3 albums, as well as her newest single “In Winter Blues,” and even released a book of poetry titled “Saturnine,” last fall.
Debuting in 2008 with her EP Teardrops and Lollipops, Tristen’s roots have a distinct singer-songwriter quality, especially when compared to her more recent work. Perhaps influenced by the sounds that pervade Nashville’s music scene, her early work has a much more “classical” folk sound, and slightly southern sounding vocals. This theme continues, albeit more upbeat and produced, in her first and critically acclaimed full length album, Charlatans at the Garden Gate. Featuring more pronounced vocals, instrumentally complex tracking, and a more pop-influenced overall mood, this album really set the bar for her music.
The way that music works, artists tend to get pigeonholed into a certain genre or associated with a particular style. Because of this, what should have been a very successful release of Tristen’s third album, Caves, was not as well received as her previous albums by critics who expected another folk album. Instead, what they got was a drastically different, production-heavy pop album. To some, this went against the things they liked about her early work. However, unlike many synth or pop artists, Tristen’s latest album retains the lyrical depth and attitude that made her first two albums stand out. The “their first album was the best” stance is even more overused than the techniques critics claimed were wrong with the new release. For the uninitiated listener, Tristen’s Caves is not only soulful, but catchy, fun, and easy to listen to. Caves doesn’t take an ear for folk music to enjoy, and represents a big step in her musical evolution.
While Tristen may be breaking the cardinal rule of modern pop music, AKA writing songs about death, violence, and actual feelings, her evolving sound is a breath of fresh air compared to the songs you hear over and over on the radio.