Minneapolis based four-piece Tapes ‘n Tapes were the bloggers buzz band of 2006 storming into the fold with The Loon, a triumphant album dripping with the ghost of seminal bands, past most notably Pavement and the Pixies. With the indie community worshipping at the altar of Tapes ‘n Tapes they signed to XL, now home of such delights as Radiohead, Vampire Weekend and Devendra Banhart.
So two years later, and with much touring under their belts, how has their sound evolved for the notoriously ‘difficult second album’?
As opposed to their debut – produced by the band’s bassist at a friend’s low ceilinged, unfinished basement studio – Walk It Off sees über-producer and former Mercury Rev bassist David Fridmann apply his garnish of sonic sounds without getting too psychedelically expansive on us.
Opener La Ruse sets things off with a low swarming guitar sound before cymbals crash and vocals shimmer out – it’s a stuttering start that doesn’t announce itself with as much vigour as Just Drums did on their debut. The first two songs fly past and instead of grabbing you by the scruff of the neck and throwing you head first into the album, they leave you feeling dislocated.
However when the first single Hang Them All rears its head, the prodigious talent of the foursome assault your consciousness and have your head bopping like the a faster version of dog in the Churchill adverts. Jangly guitar and low organ sounds mix with tender vocals steadily building up to a crescendo, when the main chorus rolls in 45 seconds before the end.
The sheer depth and vocalist talent of Josh Grier are paraded throughout Walk It Off. Say Back Something is a heartfelt gem dealing with relationship turmoil:when lead singer Josh Grier sings “Why won’t you meet me in the morning, why wont you look me in the eye / I’ve been so misled by the comfort of our bed.” You can feel the numbness in his voice.
At the other end of the spectrum is Blunt, where Grier’s distorted, ravenous vocals thunder out, drums crashing, and brash guitars snarling to create a tempestuous concoction of sound.
The album is more subdued than the predecessor but the swagger remains in abundance. Bounteously mature lyrics and elaborate melodies conjoin to create an offering, which mostly engrosses but at times frustrates.
Anyone hoping for the instant gratification of The Loon will be disappointed, as this album takes time to grow on you until it wraps you up in its cocoon of sounds and keeps you enshrouded there. It doesn’t match its predecessor but it’s a banquet of sound well worth feasting on.