Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

1993 was the best summer of my life. For Adam Halferty, it may have been one of his worst. Still, in a strange musical twist, his song about that summer, the one you’re listening to right now, may be one of his most beautiful.

The story goes a little like this: His family was on the run. They landed in a commune in the Ozarks – not a happy hippy commune, but one that was laced with odd murders and fits of molestation. In the middle of the night Adam’s father and mother stole he and his four sisters off to a new life, to some place called Anywhere Else. But the darkness followed them: “1993” is the story of that experience - with one notable, family friend who happened to also be a molester.

Picture yourself at the age of 10, trying to be a man of your family.

If American Tomahawk begins anywhere, it begins here. And if Halfery's Tomahawk project is about anything it may best be about measuring how long one’s arms really are. Halferty’s songs are assessments at arms-length – the staving-off of the darkness and an examination of the journey… two feet and one arm away –far-enough away to keep the demons at-bay, but close enough to roll it all over to reveal the honesty in it all.

On the cover of Tomahawk’s debut album, “Contradictions, Generalities and Future Criminals”, there is a photograph of Halferty’s grandmother holding some of his nieces. On the inside you’ll find photographs of more family, including pictures from the road – of Halferty, Kam Mohager and Sean Foreman. Read the liner notes: names of those close to Halferty. Family.

The sensation of homesickness and displacement and of constantly running away saturate Tomahawk’s “Contradictions, Generalities and Future Criminals”. An alarmingly gorgeous sunset smash of songs, the debut is stylishly smart at every turn. For where this could easily have become an album of self-deprecation and woe-is-me – it absolutely is not. To the contrary, it is an album of blessings – the discovery of finding one’s center of reality.

And you can hear it in one of the album’s most profound and moving through-lines: in the symphonic, angelic voice of Rachel Springsong. Her wind sounds and emotional heft provide an ethereal texture, a clarity in light – the sound of walking toward the bright light of your middle ground, your clearing.

Currently spending most of his days on-tour with 3OH!3, the sense of homesickness is something that remains very real for Halferty. For while he always knows where his home is physically – this may all be a grand illustration of the struggle that never left his side: of always seeking to really be at home, to really discover where that invisible, inner sense of home resides.

In total and deconstructed, “Contradictions, Generalities and Future Criminals” is astounding. Halferty wrote and arranged all the parts. Then he recorded all of them, by himself, in his house – at his center, in Denver. There was no studio, no engineering professionals, nobody but Halferty – and his wealth of experience and what now must be acknowledged: a tremendous and profound lot of talent.

Read this right: Adam Halferty is one of the Queen City’s absolute best songwriters. And where we needn’t concern ourselves with quantitative scales filled with numbers and tedious valuations – we can concern ourselves with the qualitative, invisible factors which move us all to the cliffs of our emotional lives. “Contradictions, Generalities and Future Criminals” is one such vertiginous cliff.

The most impressive and telling factor in this whole project may just be how Halferty came-up with the melodies for this project: Acapella. No instruments. Just: hum-along, sing-song. And to that end, Halferty’s process has mirrored his subject matter: nearly everything on the album is about his life, and moreover – about daily life. About yesterday. 1993. That time with the girl when it didn’t work out and Halferty was imploring her to let it go. These are the songs that Halferty sang along to himself on the airport tarmac, that foreign city's causeway, walking to the car, riding in the back of the cab - where one memory sparked another. These are the silent hymns of a man growing older, becoming the man of his family.

American Tomahawk is, in-part, diary entries. As Halferty said, “my life has just been a little more ridiculous than the average bear, that’s all.”

When a kid that doesn’t even know his real last name until he’s much older – I would have to concur that this is a story worth telling.

And Halferty is a storyteller of high proportions. Like his intelligence around the sonic dynamics – his stories too arc and peel back something telling about humanity, bit by bit. In all, just like his work with Young Coyotes, “Contradictions, Generalities and Future Criminals” is an exercise on much – on finding your center, your home; that kind of sacred knowledge. And if you listen closely, whether or not Halferty is certain: I think he’s found it, here.

At home.