What does ten years and a trip around the world sound like? You could chat up that grade-school classmate who litters Instagram with envy-inducing travel snapshots (#blessed)—or you could consult Tomi Allen’s ‘Abstract Echoes of the Mind and Soul’. Written on four continents, Allen’s songs are intriguing reflections of his journeys.
Allen’s debut is beachy and retro. It’s Jefferson Airplane meets Jack Johnson. The first track, ‘Shine on Me’, brings the beach party with warbling, surfer-cool guitars and dreamy, sun-drunk vocals. The psychedelic ‘A Ridiculous Dreamer’ adds rap to a track that sounds like Steve Miller Band’s ‘Fly Like an Eagle’, if it were visiting from a parallel universe. It’s the sound of his hometown and travels colliding, as Allen explains, “I love lakes and beaches, I’m from Nova Scotia, and I also spent a year and a half working on mega yachts, living [by the] water, and traveling from the Mediterranean to the Galapagos – all the way to Greece and back to the Caribbean.”
The album can adeptly transition into something darker, too: ‘Eye of a Storm’ evokes the sensation of being surrounded by cyclonic chaos and debris. Similarly, the wailing guitars at the end of ‘On the Shelf’ are proof that Allen is able to trade in the flip-flops for something a little more rugged. Indeed, there is room on the album for experimentation with new sounds; Juno winner Dinuk Wijeratne adds an unexpected but entirely welcome synth element to the percussive, folk-ish ’Tree of Dreams’. The delicate guitar work on ‘Tangled Web’ is similarly refreshing, and would sound perfectly at home on the radio. In fact, I hope I hear it.
Lyrically, ‘Abstract Echoes’ is striking because of its overwhelmingly positive outlook. In ‘Tangled Web’, Allen speaks of removing oneself from chaos, singing, “Why can’t I just let my mind take a rest?” For me, a perpetual ball of anxiety, this is a frightening concept, but the song forces me to consider it. Even on the racy ‘Fuel my Fire’, tight t-shirts and short skirts seem like happy accessories to a “heart so kind”. Allen renders The Beatles’ ‘With Some Help From My Friends’ in a Brazilian samba to find its place on this friendly album as well, and —it’s worth mentioning— is an entirely tasteful, groovy take on a renowned classic. In a world where one can easily drown in negativity, Allen admits his view is optimistic: “I respect the dark side that exists, I’ll do my best to work with it, but ultimately I wish to flip it or transform it into something more inspiring. Why not?”
At the moment, I can’t argue.