Los Angeles-via-Brattleboro, Vermont singer/songwriter Kyle Thomas has announced Smalltown Stardust, his first new album as King Tuff in four years, after 2018’s The Other. The video for its lead single and title track is out now ahead of the LP’s Jan. 27, 2023, release on Sub Pop.
While living in L.A. in 2020, Thomas not only engineered and contributed to new albums from his housemates Meg Duffy (Hand Habits) and Sasami Ashworth (SASAMI)—2021’s Fun House and 2022’s Squeeze, respectively—but also made one of his own, co-produced by (and mostly co-written with) Ashworth. “I wanted to make an album to remind myself that life is magical,” Thomas explains in press materials.
Thomas describes Smalltown Stardust as “an album about love and nature and youth” in a statement, continuing:
The truth is I never really wanted to leave my little town in Vermont. I knew it was something I had to do in order to actually pursue a career as a musician, but I loved my life there, and I cried and cried the day I left on a Greyhound bus for LA in 2011. In some alternate dimension there’s a version of me still living there, still hanging on the stoop, drawing pictures in the coffeeshop, walking the railroad tracks that run along the river … but alas, in this here dimension, I’m nothing but a townie without a town!
Thomas adds of the album’s title track:
“Smalltown Stardust” is a song about keeping that little place and all its strange magic with me wherever I go. It’s a portal that I can access when I need inspiration, or when the city feels too big and hot and I need to mentally escape into some dark woods. It’s a place I found myself going to often in the last few years while I was writing this record, stuck in scorched and crispy ol’ Los Angeles, so it felt fitting as an album title as well as the first song to release into the world.
“Smalltown Stardust” does feel like it was left out in the L.A. sun too long, leaving its shape warped in unexpected ways. A twitchy backbeat propels its fried guitar-pop sound, with Ashworth’s vocals flickering in the background of verses, then fusing with Thomas’ in the chorus. Unsettling piano and synth tones and angular electric guitar appear, then disappear just as suddenly, keeping you chasing the song, much like Thomas himself: ”’Cause I’m holding onto wonder / Holding something I can’t touch / Holding onto Smalltown Stardust,” he and Ashworth croon, two seekers with wide eyes.
In addition to his new record, King Tuff has announced a 2023 North American tour that starts in San Diego, California, on March 1, crossing the country before concluding with an April 7 stop in Pioneertown, California. The band will play L.A., San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Nashville, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Brattleboro, Toronto and Chicago along the way. Tickets go on sale Friday, Oct. 28, at 10 a.m. local time.
See the “Smalltown Stardust” video (dir. Giraffe Studios) and a 2015 Thomas interview from the Paste archives below. You’ll find the details of Smalltown Stardust and King Tuff’s tour dates further down.
Smalltown Stardust Tracklist:
01. Love Letters To Plants
02. How I Love
03. A Meditation
04. Portrait of God
05. Smalltown Stardust
06. Pebbles in a Stream
07. Tell Me
08. Rock River
09. The Bandits of Blue Sky
10. Always Find Me
11. The Wheel
Smalltown Stardust Art:
King Tuff 2023 Tour Dates:
01 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah
03 – Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
04 – San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
06 – Portland OR @ Mississippi Studios
07 – Vancouver, BC @ Wise Hall
08 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
10 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
11 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
15 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall Upstairs
17 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement East
18 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
19 – Durham, NC @ The Pinhook
21 – Washington DC @ DC9
22 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
23 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair
24 – Brooklyn, NY @ Elsewhere Hall
25 – Brattleboro, VT @ The Stone Church
28 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz PDB
29 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
31 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
1 – Minneapolis, MN @ The Turf Club
3 – Kansas City, M0 @ The Record Bar
5 – Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf
6 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge
7 – Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy and Harriet’s