Songwriter Zack Tomasko shines on his new album “There Used To Be A Future, For Now Here’s Zack Tomasko”
As the title implies there’s a bit of theater and irony mixed into Zack’s style and writing, but overall this is a great rock record with influences ranging from show tunes to modern indie.
A pensive lyricist with licks that would catch Bennie Taupin’s attention, the album as a whole is full of great imagery and strong lyrical themes. Zack leaves a lot on the table, and you can piece together a snapshot of his experience through the abundance of analogy and metaphor mixed into the direct statements he litters throughout.
Zack dips into multiple styles throughout the record. He kicks it off with the indie rocking Wake Up Alone. Zack sets the tone for the record out the gate, asking, “Ain’t it special being special, good being good? I never saw you this happy, only misunderstood.”
“Wake Up Alone” is the most straight forward rocker on the record, with the full band playing in full force throughout the song. It serves as an introduction to a fantastic full album that swims through various styles as a whole.
Grooming the listener for his plethora of style, Zack follow ups perfectly with the Morphine style dirty blues of Nowhere, Always. The catchy jazzy number feels like it was pulled out of a smokey speak easy. It’s dressed with attitude and swagger. Out the gate, stylistically Zack is giving you a quick peak at his cards with his first two songs. Like a true hustler, he dives deeper into his motif as the album progresses, repeatedly surprising you with versatility and variation.
We Can Go Outside is an alternative R&B groovy indie pop track with elements of the Gorillaz in its production, and Thundercat in its jazzy underlaying.
Tomasko proceeds to delve further into atmosphere and vibe on the percussive In My Mind, There’s Sand Aplenty. The dark resolutions in his chord progressions with his passionate vocal evokes memories of Jeff Buckley. The vibey world percussion that sits beneath the song gives a retro 80s feel the like of Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. Once he introduces full drums and the vocal harmonies mid way through the track, he cements himself as a skilled producer who has not yet hit his limit.
Tomasko returns to his theatrical bluesy roots on Birth Of A Salesman, pulling again from elements of early 70s Elton John and even Jerry Lee Lewis. On this more traditional number, Tomakso starts off with a bare arrangement of drums, bass and vocals. A guitar and harmonica break through for a quick solo section and the well placed guitar follows the songs to its exit, but mostly its the piano and voice front and center for most of the track. Like a an actor in spotlight for a mid show solo, the track sits nicely in the center of the LP. Towards the end Tomasko is joined by a horn and some additional voices, as if the rest of the cast is returning to the stage after a mid show number. Zack knows how to put together a show, and displays care and attention on how he staged the record.
Lucky Numbers is an atmospheric, bass heavy interpretation on a classic rhythm and blues songwriting style. Zack reintroduces echoey under layers and stacked vocals. It’s during the bridge that Zack slings his signature motto, “here for a long time, not a good time.” The lotto theme in the music might be a metaphor for his career as an artist. Zach is taking the long road, choosing a multi dimensional approach to both his production and writing. Like all indie greats, he doesn’t fall directly into one sub genre, he takes his favorite pieces from everything and connects it together to make one complete monster.
Modern indie influences are further inspired by Zack’s inclination towards an old time feel in some of his piano heavy writing. He showcases this further on the jazzy Two, and on his instrumental Content. The instrumental especially catalogs the sounds heard throughout the record, giving the band and his talent as a musical arranger an opportunity to shine. The track feels like an interlude as part of his show, a quick musical break leading up to the vocal finale.
Zack closes the album with I Was A Vowel. For most of the record, he sings with the fire and fury of someone whose been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and passed over. The pounding piano and passionate vocal are reminiscent of Cold War Kids. He sings with a tint of scorn and disgust, pleading “you were a number, I was a vowel.” The bitter howl of a tortured artist in a crowded industry, staying true to himself at the risk of being overlooked.
Zack is a true original and a roots artist at the same time. He hasn’t conformed to the the conventions of modern cliches. He mostly skips the quantized drums and tuned up vocals, leaning towards a more raw sound. His band is tight and plays with intensity. His piano is filled with touch and texture, soft at times, but mostly played with fiery conviction. He derives a lot from traditional rhythm and blues as well as modern indie. Honoring an element in classic rock, his music never sounds completely traditional, but the blues influence is almost always underneath.
The art of the album has not been lost on Zack Tomasko. From start to finish, the music evolves on his new record, creating an overall vibe all its own and true to itself. Without ever sounding redundant but staying with his feeling, the songs all hit different but sound like they belong together.
“There Used To Be A Future, For Now Here’s Zack Tomasko” is an impressive effort from start to finish, hear it now.