Title TK

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Title TK
Studio album by The Breeders
Released May 20–21, 2002
Recorded 1999–2001 at Electrical Audio Studios, Chicago;
Grandmaster Recording Ltd., Hollywood[1]
Genre Alternative pop-rock[2]
Length 37:55
Label 4AD, Elektra Records
The Breeders chronology
Live in Stockholm
(1994)
Title TK
(2002)
Mountain Battles
(2008)
Singles from Title TK
  1. "Off You"
    Released: March 26, 2002
  2. "Huffer"
    Released: April 30, 2002
  3. "Son of Three"
    Released: September 2, 2002

Title TK is the third album by the American band the Breeders, released in May 2002. The group's second album, Last Splash, came out in 1993. In the years following this, various band members left, and by sometime in 1997, singer and songwriter Kim Deal was the only regular member remaining. Throughout that year, Deal spent time in studios with numerous musicians and engineers to try to record a follow-up album. However, her reportedly demanding standards, drug use, and other difficult behavior alienated those she worked with.

In 1999, joined by her sister Kelley, Deal began recording sessions with engineer Steve Albini in Chicago. She later decided that she needed a backing group, and by chance met members of the band Fear at a bar in New York. Fear members Mando Lopez and Richard Presley, as well as Los Angeles musician Jose Medeles, joined the Breeders' line-up with the Deal sisters. The group continued recording with Albini in 2001, and the output from these sessions was supplemented with two tracks recorded in Hollywood with engineers Andrew Alekel and Mark Arnold. Ten of the twelve songs on the album are credited solely to Kim Deal; the other two were written by all five band members.

The songs on Title TK, which feature austere instrumentation and unpredictable musical flourishes, often possess a somber, intimate feel. Reviewers have commented on the unconventional and enigmatic, as well as dark but sometimes funny, character of the lyrics. Themes cited for the album include road trips and beer drinking. Harmonies between Kim and Kelly Deal are prominent throughout the songs, with Kim's vocals described as rough but endearing.

Title TK generated three singles. It reached the top 100 in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and No. 130 in the United States. Critical appraisal of the album has mostly been positive.

Background and initial recording attempts[edit]

Kim Deal's initial attempts to record the third Breeders' album were hampered in part by her drug use and bad relationships with recording personnel.[3]

Between the formation of the Breeders in 1989 and the release of Title TK in 2002, the group underwent several personnel changes, with vocalist and songwriter Kim Deal the only constant member. Their debut album, 1990's Pod, included members Tanya Donelly and Britt Walford, who later left, replaced by Kim's sister Kelley Deal and Jim Macpherson by the time of 1993's Last Splash.[4][5] Kelley Deal and original member Josephine Wiggs left in 1995, and Kim formed the Amps as a side project.[4][5] When she reformed the Breeders the following year, the group initially kept the Amps' line-up of Deal, Macpherson, Luis Lerma, and Nate Farley.[5] (Between 1989 and 1996, Carrie Bradley was also sometimes in the band.)[4][5]

Throughout 1997, Deal attempted to record tracks for a forthcoming album.[4] By this time, she had reportedly become difficult to work with, and had adopted very demanding musical standards for her bandmates.[3][6] At least two of the former Amps—Macpherson and Farley—quit in 1997 due to the unpleasant atmosphere of the recording sessions,[3][7] and were replaced by a series of other musicians throughout the year.[3][4] The 1997 sessions took place at four different New York studios, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees for studio time, hotels, and moving musical equipment between locations.[3]

In addition to the various musicians who parted ways with Deal in 1997, multiple recording engineers also did the same, due to her difficult behavior and increased drug use.[3][7] The first engineer that she hired was Mark Freegard, who had helped to record Last Splash.[3][7] Freegard reports that Deal was "totally lost" and that after seven weeks in the studio, there were no usable recordings.[7] Two subsequent engineers, John Agnello and Bryce Goggin, had each worked with Deal in 1995 on parts of the Amps' Pacer release.[8] Agnello quit the 1997 sessions after ongoing frustration, culminating when Deal disappeared for several days.[3] Goggin was put off by Deal's "futile ... standards";[6] when she was unsatisfied with a drumming performance (by the percussionist of the Flaming Lips) that Goggin thought was outstanding, he told her to go home and master the drums herself.[3][6] Deal followed his advice, and went back to her hometown of Dayton, Ohio, to practice the instrument.[3][6]

Subsequent recording and coalescence of the group[edit]

Steve Albini was the main engineer for the Title TK sessions.

Deal then spent "a lost year" in which she "[went] AWOL in New York".[7] She began recording again in 1999, first in Austin, Texas, and then at Electrical Audio studio in Chicago with Steve Albini,[4] who she had previously worked with on Pod,[9] Pacer,[10] and the Pixies' Surfer Rosa.[11] Although Kim Deal performed most of the instrumental parts herself at these 1999 sessions, Kelley also had some involvement.[1][4] They recorded "The She", "Forced to Drive", and "Too Alive" in Chicago; Deal's drum performance on the latter track was from the Texas session.[1]

Deal liked the songs recorded so far, but realized she would not be able to tour without a band.[3] She returned to New York to look for a backing group in March 2000.[3] By chance, she met members of the group Fear at a bar[3][12]—drummer Andrew Jaimez, bassist Mando Lopez, and guitarist Richard Presley[4]—and invited them to jam with her at the studio she was renting.[6][13] Deal decided that she wanted to continue playing with these musicians,[6] and within three months, moved to Los Angeles, where Fear was based.[3][14] Soon after, Kelley also joined the new Breeders line-up.[6] For much of the rest of the year, the ensemble practiced and wrote songs.[4] Jaimez was involved in other musical projects, and decided that he did not have enough time for the Breeders;[4] he was replaced by Los Angeles drummer Jose Medeles.[4]

The five Breeders returned to Chicago in mid-2001 to continue recording with Albini.[13] "Little Fury", "London Song", "Off You", "Put on a Side", "Full on Idle", "T and T", and "Huffer" were recorded during the 2001 session.[1] At some point in 2000 to 2002, the group also spent time at the Grandmaster Recording Ltd. studio in Hollywood, resulting in "Son of Three" and "Sinister Foxx"; the engineers at this session were Mark Arnold and Andrew Alekel.[1] Kelley has stated that "Little Fury" and "Sinister Foxx" started as "just ideas" by her and Kim that turned into full collaborations by the group[12]—all five musicians received songwriting credits on these tracks.[1] Kim Deal is credited as sole songwriter on the remaining ten tracks,[1] although other band members contributed musical ideas as well.[12] Another song from the Title TK sessions, "Fire the Maid", written by Kelley,[12] was performed in concert in 2000 and 2001,[15][16] but was not included on the album.[12]

While recording Title TK, Kim Deal adopted a philosophy she calls "All Wave".[4] This approach stipulates that only analog recording processes, and no computer manipulation, may be used.[4] Deal has said that she likes "interesting mistakes" in song production, and that her beliefs about recording are "a reaction ... to everything sounding so straight and clean in most records today".[13] The album's mastering was also done using analog processes, by Albini and Steve Rook, at Abbey Road Studios.[1]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Mando Lopez and Kim Deal (shown here in concert in 2004) and the other Breeders delivered restrained, expressive performances during the Title TK sessions.[17][18]

The sound of Title TK has been described as "skeletal",[17][19] "minimalist",[18][20] and "stripped down",[2][6] with the band using restrained instrumentation for expressive effect.[17][18] Throughout the album, one-off and unexpected musical ideas are common: "keyboards buzz from out of nowhere, guitars hit bum notes intentionally, basslines amble up and down the scale, sometimes two at a time";[21] on the track "Put on a Side": "At 1.28 there is a distorted chug. At 2.29 a drum-roll. Neither of these introduces anything, continues or reappears. They just pop up and then evaporate like accidental fireworks."[18] The songs, which are "sad"[17][18][22] and "intimate",[2][18][23] have a relaxed and unpolished character.[20][21] Music writers have noted on one hand the divergence in speed and levity from song to song,[2][6][12] and on the other, the unified feel of the album as a whole.[17][24]

The songs on Title TK, including "Off You", feature "minimalist" instrumentation,[18][20] and one-off, unexpected musical embellishments, such as the "bizarre solitary synthesiser splodge" heard here.[18] Reviewers have commented on the "intimate"[2][18][23] and "sad"[17][18][22] feel of the album and the "weary" quality of Kim Deal's singing.[21][22][25]

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Reviewers have also commented on the unorthodox character of the words and lyrical structures on Title TK. These "cut-up"[18] and "sweetly sinister lullaby"[24] lyrics are "full of sugary syllables and unfinished sentences".[23] The overall effect of the lyrics has been described as "poetry"—such as the lines "If I find the door / I am the son of Go" in "Son of Three"[25] and "Round up holler girl / Ah I will sing / Title TK / If I don't black out / Dumb made for fucking / And missing from the party / That boy spun out" in "Little Fury"[18]—but also as "cryptic"[2] and as "imagistic baffle".[19] While some critics have highlighted dark themes in the lyrics,[23][24][26] others have commented on the humor on the album.[20][22] Themes reviewers have heard in the songs include road trips,[23][24] absence,[18] and beer drinking.[19][26]

The singing on the album includes prominent harmonies between the Deal sisters.[3][12][20] These harmonies interweave their very similar voices,[2] and create a "bittersweet"[12] and "haunting" effect.[20] Kim Deal's singing on Title TK has been called "rasp[y]",[21] "weary",[21][22][25] and "more sandpaper than sugar".[2] Reviewers have also heard a "hopeful",[22][25] "sweet",[22] and "melting"[24] quality to her voice. Her vocal delivery on "Off You" has been described as "heartbreaking"[20][22] and "fragile".[18]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[2]
Billboard (Favorable)[27]
Robert Christgau A−[19]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[23]
NME 8/10 stars[17]
Pitchfork Media (7.4/10)[21]
PopMatters (Favorable)[25]
Rolling Stone (Favorable)[22]
The Seattle Times (Neutral)[28]
Spin 3/5 stars[29]

Title TK was released on May 20–21, 2002,[2][30] on labels including 4AD (the United Kingdom),[30] Elektra Records (the United States),[31] V2 Records (Belgium),[32] Virgin Records (France),[33] and P-Vine Records (Japan).[1] The phrase "Title TK" means "title to come" in journalistic shorthand.[3][12] The album's art design was done by Vaughan Oliver and Chris Bigg, with additional photography by Onie M. Montes;[1] Oliver, who had begun doing artwork for 4AD in 1980,[34] also designed Breeders' releases including Pod,[35] Safari,[36] Last Splash,[37] "Cannonball",[38] and "Divine Hammer".[39] Three singles were released from Title TK: "Off You",[40] "Huffer",[41] and "Son of Three".[42] The album reached the top 100 in Australia,[43] France,[33] Germany,[44] and the United Kingdom,[45] and peaked at No. 130 in the United States.[46]

Critics have mostly responded positively to the album. Betty Clarke of The Guardian singles out the "separation of sounds" on tracks such as "T and T" and "Off You" as the best aspect of the album, and writes that Title TK is "a welcome return to punky pop that knows how to flex some melodic muscle".[23] Rolling Stone '​s Arion Berger, while emphasizing the pain and melancholy present in the songs, praises the record as "absolutely beautiful".[22] NME reviewer John Robinson hears the album as "tuneful ... and impressively empty sounding, the arrangements of the tunes showcasing skeletal guitar and drum patterns and Deal's remarkable voice".[17] Matt Cibula of PopMatters "really like[s]" Title TK, and opines that it sounds "buzzy and funny and swaggering in that special Albini uber-geek sort of way".[25] Billboard critic Brian Garrity comments that Title TK "retains the offbeat charm that has always been at the center of the band's appeal".[27] More negatively, Melanie McFarland of The Seattle Times asserts that the Breeders "haven't solidified [their magic] with Title TK" and that "all Breeders albums have mood swings, but this one has too many".[28] Spin magazine's Steve Kandell characterizes the album as "a little unsure of itself", and points to the Breeders' re-recording of Pacer '​s "Full on Idle" as evidence that "the creative coffers weren't exactly spilling over" for Deal.[29]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Kim Deal, except where noted. 

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Little Fury"   Deal, Lopez, Medeles, Presley, Deal 3:30
2. "London Song"     3:39
3. "Off You"     4:56
4. "The She"     4:01
5. "Too Alive"     2:46
6. "Son of Three"     2:09
7. "Put on a Side"     2:59
8. "Full on Idle"     2:37
9. "Sinister Foxx"   Deal, Lopez, Medeles, Presley, Deal 4:16
10. "Forced to Drive"     3:04
11. "T and T"     1:57
12. "Huffer"     2:09
Japanese release

The Japanese release contains the following bonus tracks:[1][a 1]

No. Title Length
13. "Forced to Drive" (Loho Version) 3:15
14. "Climbing the Sun"   3:58

Personnel[edit]

The following personnel were involved in making Title TK:[1]

Musicians[edit]

Engineering and mastering[edit]

  • Steve Albini – engineering, mastering
  • Mark Arnold – engineering
  • Andrew Alekel – engineering
  • Steve Rook – mastering

Art design[edit]

  • Vaughan Oliver – art design
  • Chris Bigg – art design
  • Onie M. Montes – additional photography

Charts[edit]

Chart (2002) Position
Australian Album Chart 42[43]
French Album Chart 91[33]
German Album Chart 91[44]
UK Album Chart 51[45]
US Billboard 200 130[46]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ These demo songs were originally released in 1997 on the "Climbing the Sun" single, put out by the Breeders' fan magazine, Breeders Digest. They were recorded by engineer Erika Noise and assistant Nelsha Moorji at New York's Loho Studios in July 1996 (see "Climbing the Sun" 7" single cover). The tracks were also included on the "Huffer" single in 2002 (see The Breeders: Huffer).
  2. ^ In the album's liner notes, this drum roll is credited to the "1987 Oregon State rudimentary snare drum champion" (see Title TK liner notes (Japan)). PopMatters critic Matt Cibula asserts that this refers to McEntire (see Cibula 2002).

Footnotes[edit]

References[edit]