Michael Tolan was a member of Ohio post-rock combo the Six Parts Seven, but he also has a vast output of recordings released under the moniker Talons’. The project’s most well-known release is probably 2006’s Rustic Bullshit, a plainspoken collection of 12 songs centered on heartbreak in the Midwest recorded at his home on South Portage Path in Akron. Now, a little over a decade since its original release, the album is receiving a reissue courtesy of Broken Circles. Rustic Bullshit was Tolan’s attempt at capturing a specific time in his life, and he incorporated field recordings and purposeful noise to embed that history directly into the music. It’s what tethers the songs to a distinct setting, reading like verbal diary entries rather than words spoken in real time.
Imagine a Mount Eerie album recorded by Justin Vernon and you’re getting close to the sound of Rustic Bullshit. The album also bears resemblance to the latter work of Mark Kozelek’s Sun Kil Moon, acoustically centered and conversational, but with subtle stylistic flourishes. Tolan approaches his songwriting with a similar lyrical austerity, as well as poetically straight-faced song titles such as “There I Was In The Pouring Rain Again, But This Time I Was At The Drive-Thru At Mac Donalds’.” The most immediate takeaway from listening to Rustic Bullshit is just how dour Tolan’s outlook was when he recorded these songs in late ’05 and early ’06. Where you’d expect a song called “My Life Is A Beyoncé Ringtone” to be celebratory and commanding, Tolan instead sounds wounded and weathered. He follows that track with a pair of tunes entitled “F Everything” and “F The World,” both as uncompromisingly lost in despair as you’d expect. “Everything dies in the winter,” Tolan sighs on the former, before offering with a shrug, “So what?”
“Rustic Bullshit (Goodbye Portage Road)” is no less pessimistic, opening with the bitter lyric, “Damn sprinklers, not only water in the sidewalk/ But also my feet,” yet finds Tolan slightly nudging his head up for once. He acknowledges all the “bullshit” as steps towards relief, one far from his home streets as he repeats the parenthetical title over guitar reverberations as subtly forceful as broken still water. In the accompanying video, we see picturesque backdrops transition from day to night as Tolan’s tender whisper treads peacefully alongside and away. He suggests that he’s now disconnected from what’s troubling him, as if leaving would dislodge the present off his back. “I used to get angry about these things/ But now I just let it all pass,” Tolan sings, but with just enough resignation in his voice for it to still sound more like a wish than a declaration. In 2016 as in 2006, it’s likely he’s still learning to let go. Watch below.
01 “My Life Is A Beyoncé Ringtone”
02 “F Everything”
03 “F The World”
04 “Conversation With My Grandpa While He Watches C-SPAN”
05 “My Life Is A Pizza Party”
06 “(The Last Time)”
07 “Saving Words”
08 “There I Was In The Pouring Rain Again, But This Time I Was At The Drive-Thru At Mac Donalds'”
09 “My Life As A Broke-Ass Conor Oberst”
10 “Rustic Bullshit (Goodbye Portage Path)”
11 “Plants & Animals”
12 “Fools’ Gold”