Hannah van Loon, aka Tanukichan—the diminutive of tanuki, the ubiquitous raccoon dog icon standing hung and sheepish on every street corner of Japan—hails from the golden coastlines of Oakland where the weekend sun spends all day picking the right hues. Hannah is a former (and founding) member of Bay Area’s dreampop dance party Trails and Ways, where her vocals were used to soaring over lush, dancey synthscapes. Her output as Tanukichan though has been more preferably silken, whispery falsetto contemplation.
With the music of Trails and Ways, this would have made sense—however, Tanukichan’s Sundays is no doubt a strange departure from Company’s usual sound—even more surprising given that Hannah van Loon wrote the album in collaboration with Chaz Bear. Sure, Sundays shares in that overtly self-aware 90s retro nostalgia inherent in much of Company Records’ wavering color-offset cyan-magenta lo-fi-isms—but it shares none of its club-going energy. It’s apparent that the album was an opportunity for both of them to step away from something they already do very well to work through some unsatisfied artistic impulses.
The album cover—sunbright, with a color palette that almost certainly contains Golden Gate Orange (#F04A00 officially, for anyone curious) —definitely sets the tone of this record.
The purring guitar that opens the album might even tempt us to think metropolitan Bay Area—however, the second the drums and vocals come in, it’s like a cutaway to a peaceful, breezy suburb somewhere in a milky summer wormhole, the city fencing perforated by tall and soft non-caring, and the dandelion invasion waging the quietest of warfare. Summergaze? Weekend-loiter rock?
This album is the pop dream summer of any given undefined moment of the 90’s, moving between warm—no, hot—guitar fuzz, sometimes like felt, sometimes like sandpaper, and vocals wrapped in golden hour gauze. Speaking of all things gauzy, if the sun could shimmer between the clouds like a reflection on the water, that’s what the lead guitar ofLike The Sun would look like—and it’s definitely not the only guitar ear candy moment on Sundays.
This record takes 90’s alt-rock and updates it with current trends in sound production. Ambiguously electronic drum samples riddle the album through the tasteful intervention of bedroom production ethics. From the clicky drum machines onBitter Medicine to the gorgeously full sounds onThis Time, the dry staccato beats carry that cloudy gauze along. Now, electronic chic—von Loon’s voice ducks to an invisible bass drum onSundays. A synthesizer string section warbles under the weight of its own decay, like late summer crushed through a VHS playhead. The candy is in the details.
The lyrics are simple throughout the record—inThe Best, they iterate ever so slightly—lines repeating until they don’t quite resolve the same way. In the Bandcamp liner notes, van Loon explains that “sometimes […] it feels easier to write about things than to talk […] A lot of things in life are layered and paradoxical, but with songs it always seems simpler,” which explains why her lyrics behave like gentle shadows, referents of something larger looming in the gauze. No doubt, the lyric “you can be so happy / that she’s not your responsibility” (Sundays), much like Hemingway’s 6-word stories, evoke many different possible emotional worlds in so few words. And what a gentle, loving reminder to do the work of self-love.
With Tanukichan, whether it’s weekend morning cartoons (that’s an Ultraman sample on the album), or lyrics like “in the heat of the day all I could dream was the big blue of the sky,” Sundays is life seen through something between the idolized consciousness of childhood and the scratched up lenses of youth. The world is young, or perhaps unfinished, but each porch incensed with the hallowed smoke of bug repellent. A tinier version of you stands next to you all summer long tugging on your pant leg and begging you do lie down in the long green grass a little longer still. In skywriting, up above, the implicating question hovers—what’s next?—but dissolves just as fast as you trail off to sleep. Your smile is large in this Sunday world.