Kevin Tihista's Red Terror: Don't Breathe A Word (2001)

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Kevin Tihista has released a number of excellent albums, both under his own name and as Kevin Tihista's Red Terror. The music ranges from hushed and largely acoustic to more expansive orchestral pop, comparable to Elliott Smith or the Pernice Brothers. (There's another Smith parallel -- just as Smith had started out playing thrashier alt.rock with Heatmiser before spinning off in a much quieter direction as a solo artist, Tihista had gotten his start with Chicago alt.rock band Triple Fast Action, as well as a brief run as the bassist for Veruca Salt, before similarly heading out on his own and dropping the distortion.)

His 2001 debut is quiet and introspective, but with enough studio flourishes and baroque Brian Wilson infusions to make for a richer studio experience than just a guy with a pretty voice and a guitar. Opening track "Just Not Enough" is simply gorgeous, understated and gentle before cutting loose with some full studio boisterousness, anchored by Tihista's sweet vocals and compelling pop hooks. The two that follow, "Lose The Dress" and "Sucker" are more stripped down, almost Bacharach-tinged soft pop, but no less infectious, terrific songs that really dig in with their hooks (though the former's almost creepy, hyper-sexualized lyrics belie any sense this is fluffy traditional pop music). The rest bounces around between soft-spoken campfire songs and occasional bursts of livelier atmospheric pop (like the buoyant "Pretty Please" and the electro-chillwave-propelled "Outta Site, Outta Mind"), and it's a tender joy throughout.

I'm particularly taken by Tihista's later Wake Up, Captain, which pushes the orchestration into quirkier pop territory, but this one remains a personal favorite, the sort of thing that sounds great both sitting around on a quiet afternoon or sharing with others. 

Here's an audio rip of "Just Not Enough":
Here's the video for "Lose The Dress":