Tomten Finds Pop Euphoria on Latest Album Viva Draconia (KEXP Premiere)

Local Music, KEXP Premiere
Dusty Henry
photo by A Francis Vilendrer

Great pop music should be inherently timeless. The entire concept is predicated on tones and melodies that appeal to the masses at large; music crafted in broad enough strokes to cross generations and personal taste. It’s why we still wax poetic about artists like The Beatles or Michael Jackson decades beyond the release of their masterpieces. Pop is nebulous, a fickle concept to pin down, but it’s undeniable when you hear it done right. It’s what makes Seattle band Tomten’s latest album Viva Draconia, out Sept. 28 via the band’s own Plume Records, such an engrossing and immediate listen.

This isn’t Tomten’s first pop rodeo. Last year the band released the ambitious and decadent Cremation Songs, an album which scope was only matched by its quantity of hooks. This time around, they’ve pared down the tracks and honed in their craft further. It’s a technique that pays off, resulting in the band’s most accessible and loveliest works yet. That this record sounds like it could’ve come out in 2018 or 1968 speaks volumes to the prowess of its songwriters. Even with the inclusion of synthesizers prominently in the mix, Viva Draconia never loses itself from its core – cementing each wondrous track in gorgeous melodies with equally blissful musical arrangements.

Tomten guitarist/vocalist Brian Noyes-Watkins shares his thoughts on the album’s creation:

“We began recording what would be Viva Draconia before we released our previous record Cremation Songs in 2017. I had a batch of three songs – ‘Balance of Terror,’ ‘Blue Movie’ and ‘St. Martin’s Summer’ – that came to me over a week, and we started putting them together with a heavier presence of synthesizers. The bulk of the album was recorded at The Unknown in Anacortes, which has been one of our favorite spots due to the abundance of keyboards. Nich Wilbur has the most amazing drum sound you can get in this space that was once an old church. This album feels more energetic and pop-oriented than Cremation Songs, and with our first single ‘Blue Movie,’ we’d been listening to a lot of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Viva Draconia runs about 30 minutes, at 8 songs, and is our most concise release to date.”

KEXP has an advance stream of the record below. Listen to the album before its Sept. 28 release below.

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