With the self-assurance of someone who began her songwriting career at just 14 while holed up in her father's home recording studio, Tristen Gaspadarek has crafted a confident, poignant folk-pop debut that never wants for hooks, and manages to undercut its sing-songiness at every turn with unflinching lyrics and mature songwriting. Charlatans At The Garden Gate sports some Nashville twang on “Matchstick Murder,” understated cello on the down-but-not-out “Doomsday,” and Magnetic Fields playfulness on the ukulele-adorned “Battle Of The Gods,” but more than anything, the wide-eyed optimism Tristen manages to inflect every verse with—even as she's bemoaning the fact that she'll never be enough for her addiction-prone lover on “Baby Drugs,” say—is what makes these 11 tracks nearly wear-proof. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she also has a knack for plucking perfect melodies and harmonies out of the air, song after song. Whether she’s opening up her pipes on “Heart And Hope To Die” or slipping back behind the instrumentation on the brooding, disappointed “Wicked Heart,” Tristen shows enough charisma to make any chord progression feel like the first time those notes were joined together.
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