For the last few years, she has been working to restart since those early open mic nights in Chicago. To do it, she cut songs on a $200 Mbox Mini and posted them on MySpace to help perfect her craft and earn a place in an emerging community of artists in Nashville.
It was also here that she met local producer Jeremy Ferguson, who suggested they work together at his Battle Tapes Recording before she went on to produce a full LP with American Myth Recordings, an upstart record label based in Brooklyn.
Joined by Jordan Caress and Buddy Hughen, Charlatans At The Garden Gate has a bigger indie feel than over-the-counter pop, with vintage folk rock and Southern infusions. No doubt some of her surroundings rubbed off on her too. It's a diverse town nowadays, with plenty of musicians vying to be noticed. The reconstructed songs from her early releases are more mature, and much sharper than anything in her early recordings.
Tristen is drifting toward a different deeper cut of pop.
The most impressive cut from her new album is Baby Drugs, which retains the addictive roughness in Gaspadarek's voice. Using the simple composition as a foundation and allowing her textured melodies to drive the song, the studio version is more striking than the live performance. But this live video is still enough to hear the hooks that have new ears.
If you hear some throwback elements from previous decades, you'd be right. It's an important aspect of her music nowadays, making it much better than some of the throwaway music being peddled as pop.
“You can’t escape the fact that we all love and revere music made in the ’60s and ’70s,” she says. “I’m sure that’s why it came out the way that it did.”
Unlike Baby Drugs, not all of the studio versions are necessarily better. The added pop infusion on Eager For Your Love doesn't stick as well as the recording that appeared on MySpace. The story is still there, but I found myself gravitating to other songs.
Wicked Heart, Special Kind Of Fear, and Doomsday better encapsulate a new direction for the artist. And, it would have been nice if the label had included Cheatin on Charlatans At The Garden Gate too. Look for it as one of three songs remaining on the Tristen MySpace page.
When you add it all up and throw in her first heavy touring schedule, Tristen needs another break as artists sometimes do. Add her to your watch list if you want to help out. She might need it, given several annoying setbacks.
LA local favorites Marcus Very Ordinary got more press attention when Tristen headlined the Echo in Los Angeles earlier this week. Her website is stuck in redesign. The physical CD was delayed two weeks because of weather back East. And even her bio remains a disaster, with too much blah blah blah about the origin of her name and not enough about the origin of her music.
Charlatans At The Garden Gate by Tristen Sparks Curiosity At 3.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
There is no doubt that Tristen is still trying to settle into something. She has the right voice, the right upbeat tempo, and a little bit of earnestness. Yet, I can't help thinking that she does a little better with the rougher sound, drawing that gritty passion and forgoing any yearnings for pop.
The album is good, with the best undoubtedly Wicked Heart and Baby Drugs. Charlatans At The Garden Gate is on iTunes. On Amazon, pick up Charlatans At The Garden Gate as an MP3.