Often, artists build a substantial reach and fanbase by traversing through a series of experiments and eventually settling on their distinct sound. Once they’ve reached their comfort zones, many of them remain still and only offer minor modifications surrounding their trademark style. With Tejas Menon, the only constant thing is his ever-changing sound. As soon as his debut EP ‘Small Victories’ released in 2014, which had an Indie Singer/Songwriter air to it, Tejas rapidly established himself among a slew of similar musicians. But 3 years later with his debut album ‘Make it Happen’, the Mumbai-based artist made a gradual shift towards a more refined pop sound.
And now after a brief halt (thanks in part to Covid), the conclusion of this trilogy, as the comic geek refers to it, is officially available for streaming. ‘Outlast’, the friendly-neighbourhood musician’s sophomore LP, offers 7 fluctuant alt-pop/rock numbers that span the corners of nostalgia, anxiety, optimism with a sombre touch and ubiquitous elevating harmonies. The record is a testimonial of Tejas’ evolved and edgy personality as he plans to run the marathon and finish it by outlasting others while avoiding attention-seeking charades.
For this feature/review, let’s cut through the sequence and first bring the spotlight on the closing title track, ‘Outlast’. If satisfaction were to be a song, it would be this soul-stirring gem, a 6-minute excursion of Tejas into the future where he has combined his peculiar writing with plaintive Cello, exhilarating keys, and a sweet guitar solo by Maria Grigoryeva, Rohan Rajadhyaksha and Apurv Isaav respectively. The choir section, which features Tejas’ bandmate Mallika Barot and guest vocalist Aria Nanji at the end, is what makes this a perfect finale.
Opening track ‘Lead’ was released last year in June as a standalone single which helped build up the hype for the album. It sets the tone with grandiose trombone sections and resonant drumming where Tejas talks about the legacy he feels he has to leave for the generations of artists to follow. Later in December 2020, we got another feast for the ears – ‘The Bombay Doors’, textured over shrilling synths and majestic brassy melodies, reflecting Tejas’ love-hate relationship with the city, much like anybody who is an outsider.
‘Figure8’ is a personal favourite as it instantly puts me in a buoyant mood with its Daft-punk styled beats and epigrammatic writing by the Dubai-born songwriter. Life isn’t like movies where the party never stops and the curtain falls over a ‘Happily Ever After’ subtitle, but that’s the whole point that you can still dance away all the worries while still struggling. ‘Forget Conversation’ is the shortest on the album, a comparatively slow-paced track that offers a minimalist approach towards lyricism and fits in as a quintessential interlude.
The next one on the list, ‘Is anyone Listening?’ is something that a lot from our generation can relate to, which is basically about letting yourself go through the moments when you feel anxious and dejected, and not indulging in the bookish philosophical remedies as the rationalists do. Singer/Songwriter Mali alongside Aria and Aarifah Rebello provided poised and mellow backing vocals on this.
Longtime bandmates Jehangir Jehangir and Adil Kurwa recorded, produced and provided percussions and bass arrangements alongside Tejas for the entire record at Island City Studios, Mumbai. The band collectively feels that this is much more than just an ‘Album’, it’s the documentation of the life events of Tejas over the past few years. The bluntest example of this is the 2nd last single, ‘Story,’ which has been in the works for a decade and triggered when a relationship went south followed by an ugly breakup. But like a favourite book that you can’t put down, Tejas couldn’t complete this song for all this time until now. The bridge paces up the song and reaches a crescendo before settling in and making way for the closing masterpiece.
Despite the fact that the album explores multiple emotional arcs, ultimately it all circles back to the dominant concern that Tejas has about standing out and Outlasting everyone who is exhausting themselves by being ‘Trendy’. The record clocks in at 30 minutes and offer an intimate journey of the ever-growing musician who is here to stay for long.