There's something a little bit Billy Joe Armstrong about Tyson Ballew's vocals—the way he sings about crushes made me recently unearth Green Day's 1,039/ Smoothed Out Slappy Hours just to hear "The One I Want." That said, the local troubadour injects his own dramatic notions of love into his newest album, and darkens them with an end-of-the-world earnestness.
In "The Hatchet," he sings, "There's unforeseen dangers in everything and we'd be lucky if we fell in love with anybody." He counterbalances that in "Honest Friends" when he unabashedly belts out, "This heart gets broken, this heart gets smashed, but I guarantee you, this heart is gonna last!"
These kinds of songs evoke the excitement of first crushes and loitering on the sidewalk outside of all-ages rock shows, or hanging out with friends in parks at midnight. The fact that the album is on tape makes it all the more nostalgic, and the little details—clapping effects sharp as shotguns, poppy vocal layering—gives it brightness despite bleak undertones.
In fact, Ballew might be the perfect acoustic guitarist to hang out with during the apocalypse, mostly because his angst is cradled in starry-eyed acceptance for whatever excitement—good or bad—happens next. (Erika Fredrickson)
Tyson Ballew plays a release party at the Zootown Arts Community Center Monday, June 29, at 8 PM with Lela Bayless and The Cocker Spaniels. $3–$5.