Tamar Berk has officially premiered her new video for the single titled ‘Cleveland’ on Jammerzine. Finding that special bond of your hometown is one of those things you don’t really realize until you move away. I had that same experience visiting the house I grew up in recently. Tamar captures that longing perfectly and melodically in this new track and video with childhood images and film overlaid on the present. Because, isn’t that what helps shape and define us? I get what you’re saying here, Tamar, as a fellow Midwesterner and as someone who is in self-rediscovery. This song perfectly fits in my mind as a soundtrack for the immediate future. And gives me new ideas for the road ahead. And, isn’t that what the best songwriters do for us?
Tamar Berk was born in Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which seems appropriate because she has been writing songs from the age of 16, and playing in a multitude of bands since she graduated Kent State and headed to Chicago, where her contemporaries included alternative breakouts like Liz Phair, Veruca Salt and Urge Overkill.
Tamar’s new, solo album, The Restless Dreams of Youth, a title taken from her favorite Rush track, “Subdivisions” is a set of songs, both old and new, that finds the woman she is now ruefully reflecting back on the experiences that led her to the present.
“I feel like I’m at the age where I’m still restless, still trying to prove myself,” says Tamar about the album’s title. “I still have dreams of things I want to do, and that uneasy feeling of what else I have to accomplish. I’m still in that mind set.”
Like Phoebe Bridgers, Courtney Barnett and Soccer Mommy, Tamar Berk is a plainspoken woman with a lot on her mind, expressing her innermost thoughts in pop songs, ear worm hooks and choruses, doing it for the same reason she started… because she wants and needs to. The circle is complete and yet, The Restless Dreams of Youth still linger into adulthood.
Faced with a pandemic, Tamar began writing new songs and listening to hundreds of four-track demos and began a period of rewriting and recording, enlisting good friend Matt Walker (Morrissey, Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins) to provide remote drum tracks, Sean O’Keefe (Fallout Boy, Rachel Yamagata, Plain White T’s, Motion City Soundtrack) to mix the tracks, and Matt Thompson (Maita, The Hague) to help record.
“The Restless Dreams of Youth weave together the many stories and chapters of my life, each song unique, and personal, and yet they all come together in a sort of anthology of my life.”
That comes across clearly on the first single/video “Shadow Clues,” a dark, acoustic riff-driven song inspired by Plato’s allegory of the cave about how reality might be judged based on shadows, or flickering images on the walls accompanied by a video shot at the dark, wet stairway of the sea lion caves in La Jolla, San Diego. It’s also a nod to the hints and tells that serve as missed or miscommunication in any long-term relationship.
The chunky Cars/The Cure ‘80s new wave pop of “Better Off Meditating” also offers a tongue-in-cheek look at being taken for granted by someone you know only too well, while indie-pop “Skipping the Cracks” examines how hard it is to keep a band (or any family) together, complete with talks of leaving and miscommunications.
The piano-driven “A New Case” isn’t ironically, about Covid (it was written before), but was inspired by Tamar listening to Joni Mitchell’s Blue (and “A Case of You”), and “Socrates and Me” was a nod to her final, unsettled days in gloomy Portland when she and her daughter lived in their empty house with only a mattress on the floor.
Perhaps the new song most personal to Tamar is melodic “Cleveland,” named after her hometown and by extension, a nod to regrets real and imagined. “It’s a strange, bittersweet thing, but no matter where I live, I’m always going to feel a pull, a connection there. I still think about things that haunted me growing up.”
These are Tamar’s first solo recordings since releasing an extended EP with old tracks on leading Chicago indie Minty Fresh. Her music has also appeared on such prestigious indie labels as Kill Rock Stars and Invisible Records.
“What it comes down to is, writing and recording songs in my bedroom is still what I love to do the most,” she says. Lucky for us.