Taylor Hanson on the Enduring Post-Punk Power Pop Appeal of Tinted Windows and Why the Vinyl Debut of Their Self-Titled 2009 Album Is the Perfect Record Store Day Exclusive

By | April 23, 2024

Analog Planet

They Got Something: Tinted Windows bandmembers (from left) Adam Schlesinger, James Iha, Taylor Hanson, and Bun E. Carlos stand and deliver, circa 2009. Photo courtesy Tinted Windows.

Sometimes, musicians come together at a specific moment in time and capture lightning in a pop bottle. Such was the case with Tinted Windows, the unfortunately short-lived post-punk power-pop foursome comprised of the late, great bassist/composer Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), guitarist James Iha (The Smashing Pumpkins), lead vocalist Taylor Hanson (Hanson), and drummer Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick). Their 11-song self-titled April 2009 debut release on S-Curve was rife with a litany of three-minute earworms like “Kind of a Girl,” “Nothing to Me,” and “Take Me Back,” songs that collectively captured the spirit and verve of a pop era seemingly gone by, but one that all four of them had lived and loved in their own respective ways. “Tinted Windows is such a joyous romp into this style we all admire and love,” agrees Hanson, whose vocal panache set the tone for the vibe and feel of the songs he and Schlesinger (who sadly passed away at the relatively young age of 52 in 2020) wrote together. “I’m really excited for the people who are going to stumble across it for the first time,” Hanson adds.

The main reason Hanson is currently champing at the bit of aural possibilities here is that, in honor of the album’s 15th anniversary, BMG is releasing Tinted Windows on vinyl for the very first time — and with a pair of bonus tracks to boot — on April 20, 2024, as a Record Store Day Exclusive. As for the LP’s stats, this limited edition of 1,800 copies was pressed at Precision Record Pressing in Canada, and, yes, the source material was indeed digital because Tinted Windows was originally recorded that way at Stratosphere Sound Studios in New York City 15 years ago. But that really shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment of the intent of the band’s music and how it ultimately sounds on this LP if you actually listen to it instead of prejudging it.

(Brief sidenote: Me, I’ll be starting RSD 2024 bright and early at 8 a.m. sharp to get my RSD Jones on in full — how about you? Feel free to share your own RSD 2024 experiences in the Comments section that follows this story.)


“To be fair, as far as the Record Store Day release date goes, the actual getting it on vinyl and getting it out there comes from BMG,” Hanson clarifies. “I wish I could say it was some beautifully masterminded creative idea.” That said, the Tinted Windows lead vocalist — whose own band of literal blood brothers, Hanson, is all-in on releasing their own current and forthcoming albums on vinyl via their own label, 3CG (with the hopes of being able to someday do the same with the earlier, and quite popular, entries in their catalog) — couldn’t be happier to bring listeners both new and old into the LP listening fold. “You know, we’re in this interesting place right now,” he muses. “We have this great project that we did, Tinted Windows. And when we did it, no one had a sense that we’d be living and breathing the band every day — but I also don’t think anybody saw it as there only being one record. We thought there would be more. When Adam passed away — which I still can’t fully believe — we had been talking for the last couple of years before that about, ‘Okay, well, let’s cook the next one. What would that look like?’”

While that creative window tinting is sadly, permanently closed, at least we now have a baker’s dozen of prime Tinted Windows songs to spin on our respective turntables via this truly wonderful RSD Exclusive LP on red-and-black color vinyl. (“We Got Something,” indeed.)

In a recent Zoom interview, Hanson, 41, and I discussed how rewarding it’s been to finally have Tinted Windows available on vinyl, how the “bliss” of record listening is inevitably intertwined with the vinyl experience, and how the very existence of music helps further the tenets of human connection. Don’t-doncha wanna / Yeah, you know you do. . .


Mike Mettler: When Tinted Windows first came out 15 years ago, a number of us who loved it from the jump said, “This is a record that actually needs to be on vinyl.” Did you think that yourself from the beginning?
Taylor Hanson: That’s so true. Oh God, yeah! I mean, Tinted Windows was a special little moment in time, and we did it with just this love of this stuff — this kind of music. Even the artwork was always intended as imagining, “What would this record have been like in 1970?”

Mettler: Yeah, yeah, and that reminds me of the video you guys did for “Kind of a Girl,” where you’re performing it on that faux late-night show where the lights have that certain time-period look to them — and you’ve got the black skinny tie on with the red shirt so you look like you could be in The Cars. (both laugh)
Hanson: (nodding) Yeah, it was so perfect.

Mettler: Even though we’ve lived with the album for 15 years now, there’s a whole generation of people who’ve probably never heard Tinted Windows music — but when they do, they’re probably going to be like, “Where has this record been all my life?”
Hanson: Well, I’m super-proud of that record. One of the things I loved about it — aside from just having that relationship forged with Bun E. [Carlos] as a drummer, and James [Iha] and Adam [Schlesinger], all as a unit — was just the fact that it also was a musical kind of education for me to go through being in that band. I grew up with so much soul music, R&B, and that side of pop. And even though I loved power pop — to go out there and perform it, that changes your whole perspective on it. Everything about it is to try and remove the foundation of any keyboards, any sort of rounded edges, that go with the influence of classical and blues that’s in a lot of pop music — and certainly in a lot of my music. You just go, “Okay. This is clean. Every edge, every sonic edge, is bright and loud, just as it was done by bands like The Buzzcocks and Cheap Trick.”

All that great power pop is, frankly, like this magical box of bands and records that I think has a place in pop culture that needs to be celebrated. Truly guitar-led, melodic rock bands are such an important part of the rock & roll heritage of the last 50 years. And, like you said, it’s been getting close to 15 years on now since it first came out, but hopefully Tinted Windows, to somebody else, will seem like it’s just one of “those records” that’s in that kind of timeless space.

Mettler: Yes! Tinted Windows is in the sphere of timelessness. I think if people have any sense of the DNA of this kind of music — I mean, there are tracks like “Nothing to Me” that make me feel like I’m listening to like a lost Big Star track, or something. The more you listen, the more you find those connection points.
Hanson: Right! Exactly! It’s funny — you mention “Nothing to Me.” Actually, my daughter, just the other day, she was like, “I hadn’t listened to this song as much on the record as I did with some of the others — and I love it.”

Everybody has their own folklore connected to songs, and that is truly the gift of making records. Whoever makes it, you just put it out into the universe, and you have no idea who’s going to come across it. You have no idea who’s going to grab it and be like, “That’s my breakup song — screw you! That’s my drive song. That’s my kind of elated, fall-in-love, head-over-heels song.” Man, it’s just such a blast to play songs like these.

Mettler: Oh, I’ll bet. Now, when you have the stuttering moment in “Take Me Back,” was that just in the moment, or did you have an inspiration for that? How did that come to you?
Hanson: Oh, oh — that’s in the writing. “Take Me Back” was the first song that Adam and I sat down and wrote together for this album. He was always a writer, and I was always a producer. So, he had in his head a few of those songs already for sure, and there was this idea we had for it when we first sat down. We have a songwriting retreat that we’ve done for years, and I said, “Come out to that, and let’s just see what happens. Let’s actually write for this idea.”

Hanson: And I just loved the idea of writing (speak-sings), “Ta-ta-ta-take me back,” you know? (chuckles) Because it’s exactly what you said — it’s The Cars. It’s this whole fusion between power pop and new wave that happened. All it is, is — it’s all feeling, right? You’re just telling people how you feel it.

And so, to just play with syllables, and play with the percussiveness, and — well, the other thing for me is, in almost every place I’ve performed most of my life, I’m in front of a keyboard, or I have a guitar. And I loved the idea of just, “Okay, grab a mike, and just step out there with that mike and embody this idea of being the singer.” But it was definitely a brain-like switch because it was also like, “Wait — what do you mean, I get to do that?” (laughs) It was a bit surreal.


Mettler: I’m glad you mentioned The Cars again, since the Tinted Windows LP has that cool, split red/black color scheme that reminds me of the classic, Elektra late-’70s/early-’80s vibe, something you basically had with the original cover art anyway. The fact that you get to do it now on the actual vinyl disc itself is a great choice.
Hanson: Yeah, I love it. Hopefully, this is just a nice thread that keeps people curious, and helps people rediscover it and gives us a chance to have people not forget that we made this beautiful thing.

Mettler: I also like that you brought the bonus tracks on at the end of Side 2. We get “New Cassette,” and we get the Japanese-only bonus track “The Dirt” to fill the whole thing out. I’m glad you were able to fit those two tracks onto the record like that.
Hanson: Well, there’s just a sort of math to it. I wish it was more magical than that. Many of us have maybe forgotten the idea of the physicality of record releases, but one of the fun things about an LP is it just puts you in a place where it’s like, “This is how much space you have — deal with it! How long is it? This long — and here it is! It’s an actual record.” (chuckles)

Hanson: I mean, it brings us back to the idea where music is an experience. We are all living playlisting now and jumping from artist to artist, so it’s just refreshing to sit down and hear something all the way through and go through an experience of, “I’m not going to trade tracks. I’m not going to jump around.” That’s the bliss of record listening that I think is part of the secret of the return to vinyl listening — the curiosity, and the little upswing of record sales that’s happened in the post-digital world. It’s not only that it’s this kind of boutique artwork that people like. It’s also that something happens sonically.

I mean, we all know it rounds off, and you just do not have the sonic spectrum. Everything’s punchier, there’s nothing harsh. If you haven’t grown up in a world where this was the only way to listen — like, when you had to have something physical in the early parts of my life, before we experienced the digital revolution — if you’re a 15-year-old now, this is like going to Mars: “You mean I have to put this on here, and I put the record needle down on it?” With records, it’s a kind of process. Strangely, I think you appreciate it more when you have to pull it out and put it down on the record player. It just causes you to give it more respect.

Mettler: I totally agree with that. Now, as both a vinyl listener and music creator, are you getting something different when you’re listening to records?
Hanson: Records, sonically, there are two things happening. On the one hand, you actually are limited on the sonic spectrum. There’s a certain amount of low-end that albums can’t produce. But, because albums require a stereo of some kind to play it, you end up technically having lower-fi as far as the total sonic spectrum goes, but it’s actually more hi-fi because you’re encouraged to change your listening environment. You have to set up a separate environment for it, and have a proper stereo for it. It’s a meeting of two worlds, and the entire experience is different. And I think it’s important for there to be a “I’m going to sit down and listen to music” kind of experience for the music fan.

Mettler: That’s another point we both agree on. When I put albums on my turntable, I listen to them from start to finish, and I don’t do anything else. I call it appointment listening.
Hanson: Oh, I love that. I also think that mediums do affect art. One of my favorite stories about medium affecting art is — it’s a little bit of an anecdote, but it’s a famous story about going back to the process, whereas now we’ve moved so far away from mediums — even in the recording, let alone the releasing of new music.

Anyway, it’s the famous story of where Todd Rundgren has a band he’s producing. The band will remain nameless. They came into the studio — and, of course, it’s all 2-inch tape back then — and when they walk in, here’s Todd Rundgren. He’s got the engineer with him, and they are cutting tape to 3½ minutes. They’re putting leader tape in between, and they’re just cutting away. The band’s just showing up, and the band goes, “Hey, uh, you guys are already cutting tape. What if the song is longer than 3½ minutes?” And Todd says (slight pause), “Well. . . it won’t be.” (both laugh)

I love that story because one, you just realize how far away we are from even having those kinds of limitations. And two, of course, it’s funny. (smiles)

Mettler: That’s a great story, and I swear I don’t know what band that might have been either. (both laugh)
Hanson: You know, it’s such a gift to get to work in music, period — from the very beginning, and up to producing it. To me, when you think about sharing it, selling it, and having the LP version of it, I feel like it’s an ongoing conversation with the fan. We’re all experiencing this individually. I mean, no matter what we do, somebody’s going to find it, pick it up, and put it on. I’m just glad we’re still actually making this stuff, and that it’s showing up on vinyl — and you can hold it in your hand. In a world where everything’s become so disposable, I just love that we’re talking about something that is tangible — and that we’re bringing it back to the conversation.

Mettler: It’s such a beautiful thing that we get to keep listening to vinyl, and to continue talking about it like we’re doing here today. So, the last thing before we go is, I want to jump us 50 years into the future, to 2074. You and I may not physically be on the planet then unless there’s some weird science going on, as I like to say, but if somebody types in “Tinted Windows,” “Hanson,” or “Taylor Hanson” into their listening device, what do you want that future listener to get out of that experience?
Hanson: (exclaims) Wow! So, when they press a button on their ear or whatever it is, what do I want them to hear? Well, here’s the thing. Music is truly human. I’m convinced now more than ever that everyone is musical. Regardless of whether you think you’re a singer or performer, everyone is musical. It is a human trait that’s beyond language. It’s in every culture, so my hope would be that, if my name is associated with anything that someone’s hearing musically, it brings them back to humanity.

I know maybe that sounds a little too frou-frou, but music is really connection. When people feel things related to music — and obviously, there are all these incredible styles. Every craftsman like the Billy Joels who are out there, and then funk and country and pop and rap, and everything that everybody makes, is all an expression of humanity. I think one of the most primal expressions of our humanity is music, and you don’t have to understand it. Everyone feels it. regardless of whether you have any idea what’s going on. You go, “I don’t know what this is, but I got all the feels, for some reason.”

In the end, the core thing that’s happening is, we are getting connection. We’re not just walking through the universe alone. Somebody out there had a thought and they put it down, and they shared it. And so, what would be beautiful would be to think that someone’s going to hear “Take Me Back” or “Kind of a Girl” or “Penny & Me” [from Hanson’s April 2004 album on 3CG/Cooking Vinyl, Underneath] , and have an emotional experience that is alive.



1LP (BMG) – Record Store Day Exclusive
Limited edition of 1,800 copies

Side A
1. Kind Of A Girl
2. Messing With My Head
3. Dead Serious
4. Can’t Get A Read On You
5. Back With You
6. Without Love
7. Cha Cha

Side B
1. We Got Something
2. Nothing To Me
3. Doncha Wanna
4. Take Me Back
5. New Cassette
6. The Dirt (Japanese Release)

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