Somewhere, there’s the paramedic who makes the best jokes between administering adrenaline shots and checking for long flat vitals. There’s the lawyer who defies his tailor’s wishes, asks for passé styles and cuts, but is leagues snazzier than his counterfeit chic counterparts. There’s that farmer who buys their winter produce from Sobey’s after a meager harvest. The concussed boxer who winces and flails under the melting, bright lights.
The world is full of irony, of contradictions, of humour, of heartbreak, of levity, of courage and of misplaced pride. What do you do with it all? You’re complex, and you know it. But complexity can be presented with elegance, wit, and personality and there’s no better way to mould these idiosyncrasies into something coherent than to just write and sing.
Sing 17 songs with your friends. Sing them with shy poise, almost a whisper. Use that steady stream of words to make sense of everything. Maybe you veil them like the bride you never wanted, or perhaps you proclaim them proudly from your pulpit.
Now you’re starting to get it.
It’s everywhere. This album sprawls. It has to; it’s 17 songs long and dense with wordplay hiding a composite of sundry emotions. That might seem like an eternity to some, but it’s so engaging and so honest that it floats right by.
Thom’s formula is a disregard for formula. It’s letting the songs take their own path, only later adjusting to meter and form — if at all. The core of the songs are all built to hold their own. They’re brief forays into a time, a trip, a story, a feeling. He states on History Books,
“Every memory is just a souvenir,” but those souvenirs, if nothing else, are the verses he scribbles down and brings to life. And they’re not all memories; they’re fragments of thought, twisted into a singsong musicality.
Old Stomping Grounds comes with a unmatched backing band, bringing colour to lively songs. Whether it’s the traded vocals, added eccentric flourishes, or bouncy charm, there’s friends to lend a talented hand all along the way. It takes a special hand to direct 17 songs into a focused, efficient piece, and Thom and friends do that with ease.
Does my opinion matter? If so, give this album, like, ALL the accolades. Or maybe … none at all. Hear me out. I don’t know whether I want this masterwork to be awarded for everything or for it to fly under the radar and be duly appreciated by the people who will intently listen the most. It’s a struggle. It’s so poignant, yet whimsical and charming and mature. It’s the best thing Thom’s ever done, and he’s been a recognizable local talent for years now.
He’s bared more here than anywhere else. It’s personal, it’s poetic, and perhaps most of all, it’s not perfect. But perfection is stupid. If you had perfection, you’d have no flaws. You’d have nothing to write about and nothing to capture. Thom has plenty, and that makes it so thoughtful.