The ten tracks that make up ‘The Other’ represent a kind of psychic evolution for King Tuff. No less hooky than previous records, the new songs ditch the goofy rock & roll bacchanalia narratives of earlier records in favour of expansive arrangements, a diversity of instrumentation and lyrics that straddle the fence between painful ruminations and a childlike, creative energy untarnished by cynicism.
The soulful and cosmic new direction is apparent from the album’s first moments: introduced by the gentle ringing of a chime, acoustic guitar and warm organ tones, ‘The Other’ is a narrative of redemption born of creativity. As Kyle Thomas sings about being stuck in traffic, directionless, with no particular reason to be alive, he hears the call of “the other,” a kind of siren song that, instead of leading towards destruction, draws the narrator towards a creative rebirth. Elsewhere, tracks like ‘Thru the Cracks’ and ‘Psycho Star’ balance psychedelia with day-glo pop hooks. “The universe is probably an illusion, but isn’t it so beautifully bizarre?” he asks on ‘Psycho Star’, providing one of the record’s central tenets. At a time when everything in the world feels so deeply spoiled and the concept of making meaning out of the void seems both pointless and impossible, why not try?
Thomas self-produced the record, as he did his 2007 debut - ‘Was Dead’ - but on a far grander scale. He recorded it at The Pine Room (the home studio Thomas built to work on the record), playing every instrument aside from drums and saxophone. He pulled Shawn Everett (War On Drugs, Alabama Shakes) in to assist with the mixing process.
While it would be easy to think of ‘The Other’ as a kind of reinvention for King Tuff, Thomas views the entire experience of the record as a kind of reset that’s not totally removed from what he’s done in the past. “I can’t help but sound like me,” he says. “It’s just that this time I let the songs lead me where they wanted to go, instead of trying to push them into a certain zone. King Tuff was always just supposed to be me. When I started doing this as a teenager, it was whatever I wanted it to be. King Tuff was never supposed to be just one thing. It was supposed to be everything.”