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2020 Year in Review: Tempers

2020 Year in Review: Tempers

People don’t often mention classic country and darkwave in the same breath but Tempers make me think of what would happen if Hank Williams and Patsy Cline were simultaneously reincarnated, went out and bought some modern-day gear and settled down in Brooklyn to write electro-tinged laments and darkwave floor-fillers. Electro-pop is the new honky-tonk after all. 

Here’s a game to play called "Is This a Tempers Lyric or a Hank Williams Lyric"?

There’s a space in the night
where I tear a hole
the moon just went
behind the sky
to hide it’s face and cry

Trick question. It’s both. And speaking of both, Hank Williams and Tempers are both adept at taking inconvenient feelings like loneliness, heartbreak and longing and making something beautiful out of them, while each wisely throw some love songs and dance songs into the mix too because we can’t be So Lonesome We Could Cry all the time. A couple caveats to these parallel tracks: Hank Williams never made a concept album based on a German intellectual’s essay on shopping mall architecture and, to my knowledge, Patsy Cline wasn’t ethnically half-Iranian/half-Latvian and nor was she born in Florida and reared in England.

Tempers are the mixed-gender duo of Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper and they started putting out singles together in 2013, with their first full-length arriving in 2015. The full-length in question is called Services and just this month they reissued the record on their current label Dais Records--seeing as the original was released on a German label (one factor in their sizeable European following) and only 500 copies pressed on vinyl. Vinyl festishist alert: the re-release can be had in clear vinyl, pink, marble smoke, or plain ol’ black plastic while supplies last.

In conjunction with the reissue, Tempers recorded an aching, acoustic self-cover of “Bright Over Me” the original of which is on Services. Besides this one the other track we got from the duo this year is “The Use of My Belonging.” A bedroom production released over the summer, it’s got a reflective vibe (“Well I didn’t see it coming / now I feel so out of place / what’s the use of my belonging”) written as it was in response to the Black Lives Matter protests and lockdown in the city. And while these two singles are certainly representative of the Year From Hell that somehow still isn’t over, I would submit that Tempers 2019 LP Private Life captures the stupefaction of late 2020 just as well as these other two releases. In fact, I’d go so far to name it the best album of 2020 released in 2019. Read on for further explanation.

Take a song like “Peace of Mind” which both in mood and in lyric captures a familiar experience, especially familiar this past year, that's rarely addressed in song--namely just f*cking staring at these four walls--where isolation or boredom or insomnia or quarantine or whatever causes your mind to be both dulled and sharpened to the point where you pick up nearly every surrounding detail of your internal and external landscapes: “Lying in the bath, it’s half past three in the morning / this time alone, this time I know, is overrated / my hand’s a wave, my hand’s a tide, my hand’s a flood / picking up the light, water makes shadows on the wall / my hands a sky, my hand’s a bridge, my hand’s a home / this time alone, I’m feeling now, starting over.” But who actually writes a song about this? Brilliant.

Private Life opens with a song that’ll make your spine tingle if you’re inclined to such feelings. It’s called “Capital Pains” and its opening line is “It’s just a way of killing time” going on to describe a strange but seductive mashup of longing, regret, determination, desperation, voyeurism, and maybe even some hint of fulfillment. These divergent sentiments are mixed-and-matched by a musical backing of danceable electro-rhythms, vocals bathed in wraithlike echo, and occasional waves of double-picked/double-tracked electric guitar that envelop the listener. It’s hard to tell if this is supposed to be the sound of “peace of mind” or the start of the breakdown and maybe that's precisely the point. 

The next song is titled “Leonard Cohen Afterworld” (*ahem* so I can sign eternally *ahem*) and by now you see where this is heading. Taken as a whole Private Life nails the general aura of this current moment in time (including the title) to the extent that I’m convinced Jasmine and Eddie recorded it in 2020 and travelled back in time to 2019 to release the thing and give us all a coping mechanism to deal with the upcoming year. I mean just look at the song titles alone: “More Than You Realized,” “Guidance,” “Daydreams,” “Filters,” and “Sleep.” And the cover image. It's all so very 2020. Given this evidence, you’d be advised to seek out Tempers’ music released next year to see what’s on the horizon for 2022. (Jason Lee)

Published: December 23, 2020 |

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