16th February 2023 saw TJ Stafford unveil his brand new LP. Released via Saint Rogue Records, Nipple Whisk is something I’ve eagerly been anticipating. Anyhow TJ is a sublime singer/ songwriter who comes all the way from Los Angeles. He made his debut in 2013 with Rise Again and followed it up with Chary and Love Will Find You that same year. 2014 then saw him unveil Get Up, 2017 he was back with debut LP All My Bad Habits Have Prepared Me For This and 4 years later he dropped the sophome and this being The Death Of Zossima.
When We Hit The Ground: Everything about this outstanding original was spot on, those electric guitar riffs gave WWHTG that extra edginess, Stafford’s vibrant vocals were fuzzy/ powerful whilst those lyrics focused on the topic of love. To be more exact it centred on seeing if a relationship can be salvaged before decided to let go. Whilst TJ is optimistic that things can be repaired, he’s prepared himself for the fact it could be a non starter and result in a broken heart. “I think we can fly/ Or we just fall from the sky/ Get high enough so they feel it/ When we hit the ground” Flying and falling could refer to the highs and lows in any relationship, in this case the hitting the ground is a steep decline showing that the relationship cannot be salvaged.
Worthy: I’ve had this record on constant repeat and this is a song I keep coming back to. This had been well crafted and the vocal delivery was packed with plenty of oomph. Now the super smooth melody took me back to the ’90s indie scene, there was a grittiness to Stafford’s tantalising tones whilst the lyrical content saw him question whether he is worthy of anything. Once the chorus kicked in, it’s plain to see this constant thinking is affecting his mental health “Someone tell me I’m ok/ I can’t hear/ But say it anyway/ Someone tell me I’m alright/ It’s not true/ But I need the lie”.
All I Want: All I Want was pure indie rock and the end product was an exhilerating roller coaster ride which packed a fiece punch. Everything about this formidable original was spot on, you had an explosive melody, TJ’s vibrant vocals were turbo charged whilst those words focused on not being truly happy with what you currently have. The 2nd verse actually touched on wanting fame but not wanting everything else that comes with it “Baby/ I think a little more can save me/ I don’t wanna be known for who I am/ Just wanna look good for fans/ Live up high in the stars/ Where they know they can never reach me”.
Clarity: I literally adored this succulent song, if I was to describe it in one word it would have to be addictive. Having heard the opening three tracks off this album, Clarity was a real game changer and this was down to the fact it’s a delightful dreamy gem which Stafford perfectly delivered. Everything about Clarity was on point, the mellowing melody was rather mesmeric, TJ’s vocal tones were crisp whilst the lyrics touched on mental health. In this case it’s hearing multiple voices in your head and the tonic to blot out this is to drink “I’ve got a whiskey lady/ She’s drinking hard to save me/ I’ve been too sober lately/ This clarity makes me crazy”.
The Astronaut: This compelling cut had been pieced together perfectly, you had electric guitar riffs, TJ’s vocal tones were rather refreshing whist the lyrical content radiated plenty of confidence. That compeling chorus saw TJ Stafford mention how he’s going to be a star and accomplish his end goal to be noticed “I’m gonna be a star/ I’m an astronaut that’s blasting off/ Alone inside a bar/ I’m gonna be a god/ I’m a statue staring at you/ But this room is really dark”.
The Same Song: A gentleness radiated from the gorgeous arrangement, The Same Song was a whimsical indie track accompanied by impressive guitar riffs, a vocal delivery which emitted a tenderness and then you had darkness tinged lyrics which centred on the fear of death “I don’t wanna hurt/ I don’t wanna cry/ Want someone to tell me it’ll be alright/ Everybody’s singin’ the same song”. Actually The Same Song opened up with a flatline.
Hated: This number was compelling punk rock with instrumentation which led me to tap my toe all throughout. Here TJ abandons the quest for hapinness as according to Hated being happy is overated. Anyhow the whole arrangement emitted an edginess, those vocals were delivered with plenty of gusto whilst those lyrics focused on letting go and the relief which follows.
Misunderstood: Misunderstood started off as a slow burner, this was due to the whole arrangement being steady in pace then that compelling chorus was packed with intense guitar riffs. Basically TJ went full throttle on this number, yes those verses may have been slow in pace, but that chorus literally knocked me for six.
Free Love: This tantalising tune is a firm favourite of mine, that glitzy melody radiated chilled out indie vibes, Stafford’s glorious vocal tones were soft/ crisp whilst the lyrics focused on the pressures of trying to conform to peoples expectations “Isn’t this what they said I’m supposed to do/ You said this is what I was s’posed to do/ I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to/ So what the hell am I supposed to do”.
I’m Special: I’m Special could quite easily be Free Love part 2. This exceptional track was pure indie rock, the whole arrangement had me envisioning Oasis, TJ’s tones radiated glam rock vibes and then the lyrical content dealt with affairs of the heart.
The World’s Gonna Love Me: I found this track to be intoxicating indie rock, there was a slow but steady pace, TJ’s vocal tones were super smooth and that lyrical content radiated a vulnerability and self doubt “Sometimes I cry in the bathroom when all my family’s asleep”. As this captivating cut progressed, TJ puts all this doubt/ fear to bed and with a little perseverance he declares how the world’s gonna love him before he dies. When the hypnotic harmonising kicked in there were tinges of a folk influence. This all changed towards the end as you had explosive guitar riffs and the harmonising packed a weighty punch.
Nipple Whisk is available from iTunes (USA/ UK)