Middle West, 2016


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Tuskha is the side project of Phil Moore, the vocalist/guitarist of the Raleigh, North Carolina-based indie folk outfit Bowerbirds. This self-titled album replaces the planned new Bowerbirds release, for which the band even started a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign. This might come as a blow to Bowerbirds fans, who were expecting an album from the band instead of a new musical project altogether. But the blow gets even bigger for those fans expecting a Bowerbirds-esque album to come out of this project, as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Tuskha forgets Bowerbirds ever even happened and starts with a clean slate.

Tuskha is an out-and-out pop album. The songs here are the kind that one might expect to discover on a “pop hits” FM station, by an artist who is very much an outsider but who makes music that the pop music crowd can find relatable – think Lorde or Sia.

This record has the sensibility of pop music but without the excessiveness. Even with its danceable beats and synths, the album as a whole has a laidback R&B feel. With his smooth and sensitive vocals, Moore sounds like a dependable friend who is always there for you whenever you need him. If the rest of the record doesn’t quite convince you of this, then the jazzy and soulful album highlight “First Date,” which finds Moore sounding his most vulnerable, most definitely will.

Pop music is sometimes about simplicity and little subtleties that make a song fun. This is very much true with Tuskha. Take the robotic vocal effects on another album highlight, “Golden Boy,” for instance. While auto-tuned vocals are oftentimes an annoying staple of pop music, when Moore dabbles in this practice, the result is nothing short of elegant. Another example is Moore’s usage of (his own) backing vocals throughout multiple points on the album in a gospel call-and-response fashion, which adds a pretty cool dimension to his singing.

Moore seems extremely comfortable and self-assured in his new skin. He sounds less like some introverted folk artist shyly trying out pop music and more like a confident performer meant for pop. Tuskha isn’t some offhanded side-project; this is some seriously great music. New fans of Moore who are discovering him through Tuskha would certainly agree that this should be his full-time project going forward – something that even diehard Bowerbirds fans might find hard to disagree with.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2016 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Middle West, and is used for informational purposes only.