King Tuff


The arc of King Tuff has gradually moved towards a grander scale over the years. From early days spent carving plastic pop hooks out of a more gilded vision of garage than his peers through 2018’s sterling pop opus, The Other, Kyle Thomas has never been content to just sit still in his style. Smalltown Stardust sees Thomas evolve once more, fully embracing the pop elements that crept into The Other with production help from Sasami, who’s lent a dynamic snap to her own works along with Hand Habits in the past few years. The guitar still pervades, providing a glam crunch to many of the songs, but its no longer the only driving force. Layers of drums, strings, and Thomas’ voice feeling comfortingly close mic’d and confessional mark the new record.

The album was recorded in Thomas’ home studio, dubbed the Log Mansion, where he and housemates Sasami and Meg Duffy were sequestered during 2020’s shut in days. Though, the album itself is an ode to the outdoors — a tribute to the small-town kid’s connection to the wooded respite. The record is a loving exploration of nature as a conduit for spirituality, with the outdoors as congregation and cathedral. The natural world winds its way around the album, along with an ache for a return to smaller settings. Thomas has since relocated to L.A., but has expressed a longing for his roots in Vermont, and the album is steeped with an ennui for smaller and slower life. The dichotomy of the album’s grandiosity and the lyrical longing for the townie tenure push against each other, creating a tension that resolves somewhere in upper echelons of Tuff’s velour pop wonderland. It finally fades away with the last strains of the train whistle that closes out the album, a familiar north star to any small-town kid gone lost.

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