Tristen pours out her heart and mind in new project
Oftentimes, when you listen to an album, it doesn’t seem to tie together. The songs themselves may sound good, but there is a detachment from each one to the next. In her new album, Aquatic Flowers, Tristen leaves no room for detachment. Every track is tied to the next in a common theme: love is hard. Tristen puts thoughts into words explaining the complexity of emotions that are tied into a new relationship. Though messages share a common thread, the melodies, instruments and moods differ from one another, keeping the album feeling fresh. Having music featured on TV shows such as The Office, Teen Mom 2, SEAL Team and Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll, Tristen’s versatility is again shown in Aquatic Flowers.
The album opens with a lively, alternative reflection on fear in “Complex.” “A lonely girl like me has to concentrate,” breathes Tristen, adding evidence to the fact that this song is introspective, backed by a steadied rhythmic beat and guitars. “Complex” finishes and listeners are thrown into a different headspace on the sullen “Die 4 Love.” The rawness of the guitars mixed with the pain of the lyrics comes across as Cobain-esque as Tristen proclaims that “If I’m gonna live in this world, I wanna die fighting for love.”
The album takes another turn down the winding path of a woman looking for a love she doesn’t know that she can handle in “I Need Your Love.” A softer side of Tristen emerges: an acoustic guitar and dampened, simple drums guide along her contradictory lyrics saying that she “need[s] your love,” but also says she will “hang back patiently.” In an ironic line, Tristen lyricizes the complex mental process of protecting oneself. When it comes to the creativity of the songwriting, this song is one of the best on the entire project.
“Athena” kicks things back up a notch with synths, guitars, rock drums and spaced-out lyrics while allowing time for the music to have its time in the limelight. “Jealous, misunderstood—disrupting a party again with your feelings” is exactly how this song feels—angsty, pressured and angry. “Athena” represents the anger in this album and comes out as a fun but dark resistance song. If “Athena” represents anger, the next song, “Cool Blue,” represents emotional intelligence. As the title may suggest, this track has a calming presence featuring a soft, collected guitar aided slightly by strings and a twinkly drum beat. “What good is a heart if it doesn’t bleed?” asks Tristen, trying to nail down her emotions.
“Story of Love” is highly reminiscent of a Kacey Musgraves tune except for the fact that the opening (and continuously repeating) lines read as, “You can’t change the world, but you can change yourself, that’s all you gotta do.” A light and airy song about fitting into the world, a sturdy kick drum and tambourine are the foundation for the guitar that duets with Tristen’s graceful voice.
“Some Things Must Die” again soothes the mind solely with voices and guitars. It’s a contemplative look at the brevity of life. Not only do people grow old and age, but love does too, argues Tristen, sticking to her message on the volatility of the mind when in love. She asks, “is there someone you’d be willing to cry for?” in a careful falsetto, adding angelic sounds to the already stunning melody.
Every lavish cocktail party needs a singer with a lofty, soothing voice with songs that can make people sway and loosen—that’s where the final song, “Say Goodnight,” comes in. Strings and acoustic guitars play dreamlike melodies that entrance people while Tristen “says goodnight” in her lullabying lament on the night. A perfect way to end the album; Tristen’s innate talent shines, the lyrics cater directly to the message and the project closes with a finality that feels perfect for the mood that Tristen was trying to capture.
Aquatic Flowers is a project of contradictions in the best way. Instrumentation and melody differ from song to song, just as the lyrics call to attention the uncertainty of love. While all of these contrasts take place, the album is tied together as a whole by a singular theme, creative songwriting and melodies that soothe yet cut deep all together at the same time.