The figure of the cosmic cowboy stands astride a false dichotomy with a glittery glint in the eye. Our idea of the Wild West as gritty and grounded in authenticity belies its historical connections to vaudeville showmanship and Hollywood fantasy. In popular culture, at least, cowboys have always looked beyond the horizon; Gene Autry made his on-screen debut in a science fiction movie in 1935, and Vaughn Monroe's 1949 million-seller "Riders In The Sky" brought the high chapparal into the afterlife. This was decades before the suitmaker Nudie Cohn stitched marijuana leaves on Gram Parsons' white suit.
Aaron Lee Tasjan, whose musical trips so far have immersed him in glam rock and guitar jamming as well as the East Nashville school of singer-songwriters, invokes those cosmic predecessors in "Little Movies," the first single from his upcoming New West Records debut, Silver Tears. Tasjan made the album (his second solo full-length) in various studios around Los Angeles while thinking about Tom Petty and Elliott Smith, two other rockers known for balancing emotional insight with studio craft. As they have, Tajsan taps into the dreaminess of post-Sgt. Pepper pop psychedelia for "Little Movies," contemplating the way each of us creates personal myths. The sound resounds with reverb, its low end recalling Brian Wilson's symphonic experiments with the studio band The Wrecking Crew. Tasjan's lyrics capture how each of us modifies our internal scripts to accommodate changing circumstances: "One more scene fades out in black and white, still another has begun."
"Little Movies" offers just one of the many sonic palettes Tasjan explores on Silver Tears, but its message captures his core songwriting approach, which blends acute social observations with whimsical introspection. In the video, directed by Kurt Vile's "Pretty Pimpin'" collaborator Daniel Henry, Tasjan is a mournful angel in a disco-ball suit helping unglamorous folks see the magic in their distracted musings. The scene, like the West itself, shifts in glimmers between the cosmos and the dusty path of the everyday.
Silver Tears comes out Oct. 28 on New West.