“Love?” starts much like an innocent musing, its songwriter Tony Lien strumming steadily on his banjo whilst pondering the reasons and motives for his partner’s affections. The romantic ideal of cosmic force quickly gives way to anxious accusations of boredom, status or something more sinister.
Then the song turns, as the narrator asks himself the question, answering with his own insecurities and idling heart. He seems to know which door to walk through, but even the closing refrain leaves it not quite ajar enough for exit.
Long a member of music collective Mildred Bonk (which he credits for “teaching him what music really is”), Lien has released music under the solo project T-Bird at an absolutely torrid clip in 2016, all via his home tape label Space Bob Tapes. His succinct style and instrumental combination of banjo, auxiliary percussion, a second-hand keyboard and a loop station often result in brightly bizarre whimsy fit for kids-show sing-a-longs or late-night alt comedy specials.
But as with this week’s release, Colouring Book, Lien’s work comprises dense self-examination (“The OK Mountain”), professions of love (“This Flower Is For You”) and daydream rumination (“I Wish People Weren’t People”). Behind the modest urge to clap and twist along, there’s a fountain of ideas waiting to pour out. Which helps explain Lien’s four releases in six months, even as he broke his hand in the midst of recording (the same day the video below was shot).
Listen to Colouring Book here, and watch Lien perform “Love?” in his apartment below:
Video by Lauren Farris
“Love?” by T-Bird