Growing up on the Internet is hard. With every NPR First Listen or Pitchfork Advance, we’re forced to briefly forget how disposable our music is in 2014 and bury our attention into hopelessly transient SoundCloud clips. For every musician attempting to make it today, it’s especially daunting. Even after the first hit, the first thousand listens, or the first [insert success-quantifying statistic of choice], there’s no guarantee of longevity. For every mildly famous Internet buzz band, there’s always a million who never follow it up with anything and a million who never get such an opportunity.
Buried under years of html compost and digital indifference, one such musician, Mike Tolan, formerly of the modestly-famous post-rock band The Six Parts Seven, has been quietly recording earnest folk songs for close to a decade. The songs, under the name Talons’, are pathetic in the purest sense of the word; steeped in pathos of paying off college debt, working for minimum wage with employees who’ve never heard of the Microphones, and spending late nights on the Internet, Tolan tragically embraces the realities of growing old, lamenting the loss of his twenties and the wide-eyed idealism of his earlier releases, like Songs for Babes and Love in the Time of Panera. On “Tired of IPAs” from his After Talons’ demos, Tolan, once a sneering ‘indie’ elitist, speaks to feeling old in his thirties and shamelessly embracing his own sincerity, singing,
“I got tired of irony when I was twenty/ making fun of everything/ I realized that I actually thought Fleetwood Mac were great/ but when I stopped laughing and tried to grow up/ I just saw the stupid and the sad”
Much like Sun Kil Moon’s recent everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, stream of conscious release Benji, Talons’ crafts songs with frank, plain, and deeply sincere language often unfamiliar in folk music, which regularly has come, to me at least, to feel absorbed in lofty metaphor and seemingly-daunting pseudointellectual absurdity. Each release from the aging Mike Talon wholeheartedly embraces that absurd, almost dysphoric feeling of the division between wanting so badly to relive your twenties as carelessly and recklessly as you once did, now paired with the wisdom and awareness of how awful things turned out living that way.
At the same time, Tolan seems obsessed with aging gracefully, becoming a grandfatherly sage only just beginning his thirties in a world that has been deeply unkind and unforgiving. Lyrically, the songs continually return to resignation with age, as Tolan (and an industry itself which seems to thrive on perpetuating and reinventing youth) asks, “How is it possible for an artist pushing thirty to stay relevant? Is it even worth it to even struggle through the PR hype cycle again?”
This all begs the question, “How do we know when we’ve peaked?” When we’re all pushing thirty, an eternity in years spent scrolling through Tumblr gifs and Facebook engagement photos, is it really possible to continually press onward with the wide-eyed sincerity necessary to make every album seem like our best? Are we forced to churn out hopeless mediocrity in hopes of touching someone? Or does growing up mean resigning to this middle-class purgatory, sitting at work and daydreaming of buying houses in the good part of town or sleeping in on a Saturday. If anything, Talons’ makes me feel a lot less alone with this plunge into an unknown age. This album (and Talons’ music as a whole) is music to grow old to, offering an enormous comfort when we’re all struggling to make sense of things.
Text by Rob Arcand
Photo by Talons’