The first time I listened to New Hampshire singer-guitarist Doug Tuttle's self-titled debut, it didn't do much for me, but I held onto it anyway. Because I liked the first single, "Turn This Love," so much, I decided to listen to the album again this weekend, and this time, it all clicked into place.*
It's not as if his music is hard to understand. Tuttle's brand of psychedelia is readily accessible, but not all psych is created equal.
Last week, I also listened to British quartet Temples' first record, Sun Structures—Noel Gallagher is crazy about them—and it left me cold. In fact, it ended up actively irritating me, because they're not doing anything Tame Impala and Jagwar Ma haven't already done (I don't demand complete originality from any band, but I've got my limits). They've got the sound—and the look—but not the feel, whereas there's more to Tuttle's work than a style forged in the 1960s.
* I was also listening quietly so as not to disturb my neighbor; this LP benefits from volume.
Tuttle isn't about neatly-shaped pop singles, though his material isn't without structure, but about capturing a feel or a vibe, which sounds vague and nebulous, because it is, but that's why the record works for me. It started to put me in a state; to relax me, to make me feel good. And maybe that's why it didn't impress me the first time I listened to it: I wasn't sufficiently open to the experience. I was passively waiting for it to impact me, instead of opening myself up to it.
Doug Tuttle is in the same vein as Morgan Delt's Morgan Delt, which also appears on Trouble in Mind, except it's a more understated affair. Not quite soft and delicate, but there's no overt anger or aggression to break the spell.
At its worst, it's a little sleepy, at least for those who prefer a few spikes in their psych, but Tuttle gets more mileage from the mind-massage of the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" than the poke-in-the-eye of the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction."
The more I listened, the more I also caught glints and glimmers of the Beatles and the Moody Blues in his use of flute, organ, and mesmerizing vocalizing, like the way he repeats the line "Forget the Days" over and over so that it plays like a mantra. It's as if he's trying to hypnotize the listener by hypnotizing himself.
And that's the point at which I realized there's more going on than an exercise in style as Tuttle appears to be working his way through sadness, possibly due to the twinned losses of his band (Mmoss) and his girlfriend (Mmoss multi-instrumentalist Rachel Neveu). Listeners don’t need to know the details, and he doesn't provide them. Sometimes catharsis comes in the prettiest of packages.
Tuttle proves he can pull this stuff off live.
Doug Tuttle's self-titled debut is out now (orig release date: Jan 28).