Visual artist Taraneh Azar releases new musical project ‘Look Here!’


Ben Suster

Azar with music and her keyboard.

Luiza Loyo, news staff

Taraneh Azar, a fourth-year journalism and political science combined major, just released her new EP “Look Here!” Along with her debut album “Grab Bag,” the two compose a passion project that has been years in the making and reflects different phases of her life. 

Azar’s first exposure to music happened at just 5 years old, when her parents enrolled her in piano lessons. However, her true passion developed at 11 years old, after she started taking guitar lessons.

“I got to a point where I felt like I could just branch off and teach myself the rest of the discipline,” Azar said. “I’ve been playing ever since.”

Although she has a hard time classifying her work, Azar, who releases her music solely under her first name Taraneh, believes her sound is close to the lo-fi genre with some elements of shoegaze music. This style is characterized by obscure and indie vocals, a heavy focus on guitar effects and recording imperfections for aesthetic purpose.

She grew up in Cleveland, where there was a prominent lo-fi music scene emerging around 2014. Azar became a fan of Teen Suicide, an indie rock band that now goes by the name of American Pleasure Club, and traveled to Pittsburgh with her mom and one of her best friends to see them perform live.

“I don’t know if I’d say [the concert] is a turning point of sorts, but I was definitely very attracted to the feeling that devastating music gave me,” she said. 

Azar started making her own music when she was 13, inspired by the people she followed on Tumblr who recorded their own songs. She used her dad’s classic old Yamaha guitar to write, record and produce her first album on GarageBand, which she released under the name “Fox Party,” her Tumblr username at the time. 

In line with her admiration for the lo-fi genre of music, she bought a cassette recorder from a local thrift store. She was interested in stripped-down acoustic music and thought the cassettes would produce a cool effect when her music was turned from analog to digital.

“Around 2015 I made a post on Tumblr, and I was like, ‘I’m releasing an album, it’s gonna be the best album, and I’m gonna release it in two months,’” Azar said. “Those two months turned into five years essentially.”

Her debut album “Grab Bag” had been in the making ever since, only fully recorded and released during quarantine. Production-wise, not much has changed from when she first started. She still records it all in her bedroom and produces it with GarageBand.

“My music feels very personal in a lot of ways, so I like having that kind of control over the evolution and production of it,” Azar said.

For her new EP, Azar implemented everyday sounds into her music. She recorded a game show that was playing on TV, as well as other seemingly mundane sounds, and mixed it with clips of her playing the keyboard, creating a unique instrumental piece she titled “Hair.” 

“I was really intrigued by this concept of having everyday sounds in my music, kind of a soundtrack to a mundane life, like a television in the background, things that are very universal to many people … like just existing and hearing random chatter in the background,” Azar said. 

She also likes to riff around with her guitar and try different chord progressions to find her melodies, while her lyrics largely consist of “incoherent jumble, pseudo poetry” from her old journals. 

Azar’s use of old lines and thoughts from her younger self give her music a nostalgic and deeply personal feeling. In a song off her first album titled “Body,” she recalls a significant surgery she had which caused her to feel like a spectator to her own body, watching events unfold from the outside rather than actually living them. 

“I have so much admiration for my younger self. I sometimes joke that I peaked when I was 13 in terms of creativity and talent,” she said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily true, but I do definitely have a lot of admiration for the Taraneh that created all of these little fragments that I’m now picking apart and putting together.”

Inspiration from her younger self not only drives her lyrics, but other aspects of her art as well.

The cover for “Look Here!” is derived from a charcoal drawing she made during her freshman year of high school, which she digitally scanned and repurposed for the EP.

Azar is a multimedia visual artist — she is a photographer, writer and musician who also experiments with video, sculpting and painting. Due to her experience with different types of media, she has always thought of her creative process as incoherent. 

“I’ve experimented with a lot of different mediums in terms of expressing my vision and whatever it is that I want to reflect,” she said. “I didn’t see a clear path until I realized that everything is intertwined.”

She experimented with mixed media on “Grab Bag,” for which she released a visual album on YouTube composed of old VHS videos she’s taken ever since she was 15. The clips show her childhood home, old high school and drives with her mother layered on top of the album’s tracks. 

“When I was younger, people would tell me, ‘You need to choose one discipline and you need to pursue it really well,’ and for a while, I thought that that was true,” she said. “But now, I’m getting to a place where I’m realizing that I’m allowed to be scattered, and I’m allowed to give space to a lot of different things.”

Azar’s newest release “Look Here!” allowed her to stray away from nostalgia and give more space to her new style. Although a few old fragments can be found in the EP, the project allowed her to play with different sound effects and lyrics and grow as a musician. 

“Putting out ‘Grab Bag’ felt like an obligation to my younger self, and ‘Look Here!’ felt like it was my creation,” she said. “It felt like my current self-creation, rather than something that was kind of following me.”

Azar looks forward to sharing her passion and her latest music with people — possibly through live shows post-pandemic. For now, she’s already started to work on her next album.

Editor’s note: Taraneh Azar has previously written for The News and is roommates with The News’ deputy lifestyle editor. 

This story was updated at 10:56 p.m. Dec. 7 to reflect Taraneh’s stage name.