Album Review: Tanukichan - Sundays

The life of an ‘internet music writer’ is one where you, despite your best efforts, wind up needing to compare something to something else that is similar; it is needed because, sometimes, it seems like the best way to get across a description of something. With that being said, though, I understand that making comparisons is unfair, or at the very least, seems to devalue whatever is on the receiving end of said comparison, simply because it implies it cannot stand on its own.

The debut album from Hannah van Loom’s Tanukichan project, Sundays, is good, yes—that is clear right out of the gate. As she did on an EP released in 2016, Van Loom gets a big assist here from Toro Y Moi mastermind Chaz Bundick (though apparently this dude changed his name to Chaz Bear a year ago) who serves as co-writer and producer of Sundays.

So while it boasts a marquee name attached to it, and is capable of mostly standing on its own merit, nearly, like, a million comparisons or descriptors came to mind the second I began listening—like ‘electro-tinged shoegaze,’ or ‘like Beach House, but heavier’—as Bundick (I’m sorry, I’m not going to call this guy Chaz Bear) and van Loom work to effortlessly craft dream pop and shoegaze with flourishes of Bundick’s own Chill Wave, funk-laden vibes, alongside glitchy electronic atmospherics.

So yes, it wears its influences, or at least its pedigree, on its sleeve, but throughout the course of its relatively breezy ten tracks, Sundays is almost always an enjoyable and compelling listen.

I stop short of saying that Sundays is frontloaded, but van Loom does opt to open with the heavier material that is more directly influenced by a shoegaze aesthetic—the first thing you hear, in fact, on “Lazy Love,” is a thick, heavy, distended rumble that, at first, could be from a guitar, though upon numerous listens later, I started to second guess myself, wondering if it was from a synthesizer. No matter what is responsible for that sound, van Loom and Bundick work to stack piles and piles of gauzy guitar riffs on top of the skittering drum machine loop; all of that, coupled with Van Loom’s near-ethereal cooing, makings for a very My Bloody Valentine-esque, attention grabbing opening moment.

As Sundays continues to unfold, van Loom doesn’t exactly lose the listeners attention at times, but there are tracks that stand out more than others—“Like The Sun” is the one that brings to mind the most Beach House inspired vibes, as distorted waves coast just slightly above the slinky groove she and Bundick have concocted underneath, while the ramshackle, catchy structure of the charmingly titled “Hunned Bandz” is juxtaposed with what is probably the album’s crunchiest guitar strumming.

Following the halfway point, van Loom dials the noise back considerably, directing the second part of Sundays into exponentially dreamier, or at least slightly more relaxed, territory. Even when things settle into a more pensive, or at least, reflective place, like the slow motion “The Blue Sky,” she and Bundick never lose sight of head nodding grooves that are found in almost every track—underneath those contemplative guitar string plucks and airy vocals is still that creeping rhythm.

Sundays falters slightly as it moves into its conclusion with the double shot of its titular track, followed by a song named “Perfect,” both of which are fine tracks on their own, though paired back to back, the similarities between the chintzy sounding drum machine beats winds up becoming a detractor. The album concludes with the somewhat unassuming “This Time,” a mid-tempo jaunt that features dueling, reserved guitar lines, as well as rollicking live percussion, though by the end, its overtaken by a heavy synthesizer drone.

Sundays is a very impressive sounding album, and the fact that it’s van Loom’s debut full-length effort makes it all the more impressive—it’s concise and well produced, and it’s also the result of a relatively short period of growth. van Loom’s first effort as Tanukichan was a very rough digital single, “Bitter Medicine,” released slightly over two years ago—a cleaned up and re-structured version of that song appears on this album. She then released a four-song EP, Radiolove, in August of 2016, and those tracks showed promise, but there was still a very unpolished and somewhat raw aesthetic to them.

Sundays is, in a sense, a fulfillment of that promise, or at the very lease, a renewal in energy in Tanukichan, through additional work with Bundick as well as time spent rebalancing her soundscapes and honing her songwriting. It may be unable to hide from its inspiration and influences, but that is an easy thing to forgive for a compellingly listenable collection of songs.

Sundays is out now on CD and LP, via Company Records.