Lina Tullgren is from Southern Maine just over the border of the northernmost seacoast of New Hampshire. It’s an unexpected location for artistic incubation, but osmosis is bound to occur when you grow up surrounded by family, friends, and weirdos interacting at all times with their own interpretations of creative output. Shifting in trainings and traditions, the 23 year old eventually found herself a voice with the electric guitar, uniquely flavored and shaped from the many years of fiddle lessons and classical technique. The shifts in genre and instrumentation are stark, but important for her growth as a songwriter. Lina’s morphing interaction with music has mirrored a growing determination to harness her ability to melodically and lyrically express complex emotions - a rare gift at such a young age.
With 2016’s Wishlist EP – recorded to tape at the home of band mate Ty Ueda – Lina proved an ability to craft simple, introspective and succinct songs, each one a pulsing glow leaving you both hollow and whole, alone but never lonely. It is on Lina’s debut album Won that we reap the full rewards of this newfound confidence in expression and rejection of internal hesitation. “The writing doesn’t necessarily get easier, but I feel more comfortable tapping into emotions and going to those places that need to be written about. Won, as it turned out, is the product that I have been hearing and picturing in my head as I write and listen to music.” It is the product of what happens when you push past the fear of what it means to think out loud – to become accountable for your internal struggles by way of manifesting your ideas into songs that are then free to grow apart from you, to exist on their own while always remaining specifically implicative of you. Now backed by a full band, each track manages to remain piercingly intimate, sometimes brief, and always honest, while gaining a wholly new sense of gestation both sonically and lyrically.
“I am all the wiser now / Now that I accept my fate”. The album starts off with this charging declaration just as the first drums kick in on opener “Asktell”. It’s clear throughout that Lina’s awareness of her internal shift is folded into every corner of these songs. The move towards working with a full band, the deliberate force with which her often quaveringly raw vocals are delivered, and the lyrics themselves, are all constantly functioning to process and take stock of an updated self. Which is not to say this is an album of concise reflections or black-and-white conclusions. The darkly punctuated “Summer Sleeper” rolls in with one of the more concrete claims Lina presents us with lyrically: “On letting go / It’s only as good as you want it to be / Only as bad as you make it”. This is an album insistent on the consideration of perspective above all else.
The album art, a reference to the historical practice of photographing ectoplasm expulsion, acts as a visual representation of the internal changes and newly gained perspectives precipitated by the writing and recording of this debut album. “Writing this record was a lot of looking inward at myself with close eyes. Figuring out what I had to get rid of and what I had to keep. I like the idea of an ectoplasm being something you’re expelling. That you’re getting rid of because it shouldn’t be inside you anymore.”
Though at a certain point, growth is not just a process of replacing old selves with new, but often simply an act of expansion. Won in many ways continues to dig through Lina’s preoccupation with the search for home. “How do you find a home when your home won’t leave you alone?” It’s a deceptively loaded question sewn gracefully into the haunting and sparse track “Face Off”. And whether “home” means a relationship, a physical space, a mentality, or emotion, that’s up to the listener. As Lina puts it, “It’s a record for me, but it’s also for everyone else. I don’t claim to be totally emotionally stable, or smart in relationships, or always very conscientious of others, but this record is me reaching out and trying and maybe sometimes I lose but sometimes I win.”