Local Review: Chris Bjornn – Killer Tofu
Local Music Reviews
Chris Bjornn = James Taylor + John Denver + Blood Warrior
Chris Bjornn’s latest album, Killer Tofu, is a lot of fun to listen to. The singer/songwriter’s talents are on full display here. Bjornn writes straightforward, poignant lyrics, plays a hearty guitar and adds layers of gold using unexpected instruments and stellar production.
Much of the album feels cheerful, lighthearted and easygoing, but the lyrics often tell a different story. There are themes of depression, heartbreak and loss throughout; all expressed with a hopeful tone—“I’ll Feel Better” is a prime example. The song begins by referring to painful thoughts returning again and again, but the subject states he will feel better one day in the future.
Bjornn does a splendid job of exploring the emotional spectrum and the twisted, uncertain thoughts we all experience. On “Deep Down,” he talks about hoping a choice is the right one to make, all the while knowing it’s a mistake. I’ve been there, and it’s nice knowing someone else has as well. The use of different, complimentary sounds on this album stood out most to me upon my first listen. The second track, “Us Thieves Are Dead,” contains a lot of verses sparse with guitar and lyrics, but the chorus explodes with percussion, backing vocals and some keyboard effects that are intensely rich and satisfying. There are a few other tracks that reach out and grab you with charm, such as “Cold Blooded Coward (The Homicide of Juan Mendoza)” with its use of whistling and something that sounds like a kazoo.
One song in particular stirred me up. “Tell Your Mother,” a song about loss and how heavy that feels and how hard something so complex can hit a person, lingered on my mind for a long time. This song is powerful. The addition of beautiful, enriching backup vocals from Katie Van Sleen is the perfect pairing to Bjornn’s voice. There are good backing vocals on a few other tracks as well, but this one stands by itself. I immediately thought of Colin Meloy and Becky Stark together on the insanely underrated album The Hazards of Love—it’s that good.
If you need someone to identify with regarding the human condition, someone who ultimately makes you feel normal about it, stating it’s okay to feel crummy while still maintaining hope, Chris Bjornn is worth checking out. –Billy Swartzfager