It’s not too often that newly released music contains all the components of what makes a great record—the perfect combination of instrumentals and good vocalizations merged together. It seems like with current mainstream music you can only get one or the other; solid instrumentals versus sensible vocals. However, Jonny Tarr’s latest album “Tough Stuff” gives you all of what you deserve—you can feel the music run through your body, listen to the vocals with certainty of what is being projected and roll through the city with your windows down.

Tarr did a great job in the way he released this album. It feels as though the songs are placed in such a strategic way on the record so that if you are listening to the songs in the order they are presented, you are being introduced to a new part of Tarr and his musical talents with each song. While “Tough Stuff” holds the same genre all the way through, it certainly keeps your interest spiked through each song as each one presents a different approach to the genre. In translation—this album is not a boring one. With each first time listen of a new song on the album, I was intrigued by the creative talent that was presented.

The best way to describe the entirety of the album is that the music appears in phases. The first three songs off the album are the best songs to introduce you to the record in its wholeness; it teases your ears with the hints of layered sounds that you will meet throughout the album.

It seems unfair to try and pick one favorite song off this eclectic record, but “Because She Gave Me the Sun” will want you to pick up a cigar and a glass of whiskey. The song has a sort of vision to it of pure bliss and pop rock. This song appears as the fourth on the album and kickoffs a more upbeat side to Jonny Tarr and his work. This song is closely followed by “Finger in the Socket” for runner up on personal favorite. If you are one for a more mysterious side, Tarr’s album gives you that as well. Songs like “Take it Away” and “At Last Call” give you a sultry and sensational listening experience.

This album can best be described in visual adjectives. There are certain records in the music industry that require deep listening to understand and receive the energy of the album—but this one is not one of those. This record submerses you into its waves of musical generosity without having to beg for your attention; it captivates you instantaneously. In the listening experience, I often imagined myself at a certain place with each song as I sunk into the chords.
Tarr certainty wraps his album up with a clear place in mind—wholeness. “The Song in Our Hearts” gives you a sense of hope and peace even during the trauma of the world that has been recently. Its words and message can be traced to symbolism of songs such as “Man in the Mirror” and “Black and White” by King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
Tarr uses powerful words to call on the craved unity of all people regardless of backgrounds, thanks those working the front lines, and provides warmth to those peacefully protesting; he compassionately acknowledges and embraces the world of the people. Within the song, Tarr is even able to insert a powerful short, worded speech which really accessorizes the song and its intention. Not at all artists are able to convey such a powerful meaning in a song or even articulate it well enough to make you feel emotion and understanding, but Tarr certainly seems to master it.

Although I could go on about the musical intelligence this album emanates, the pop-rock multi-instrumentalist does this himself. Jonny Tarr has made a name for himself in San Diego and continues to build onto that success. Tarr just won the 2020 San Diego Music Award for Best Pop Artist and is up for 2021 Best Album. There is no doubt that this is well-deserved, and I am excited to see what Jonny Tarr continues to do.