As the elder statesmen of indiepop, the Seattle band took the baton from the likes of The June Brides and The Shop Assistants, and ran with it at a time when there was a noticeable lull in the scene. Their brand of upbeat, jangly guitar music kept the US happy as Belle and Sebastian were starting to do the same over here. A peep at their back catalogue, which lists singles with titles including Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About, Twee and Superboy and Supergirl tells you much of what you need to know about them.
Fast forward to 2013 and the indiepop scene has never been healthier – in fact it’s bursting at the seams with bands on both sides of the Atlantic taking inspiration from the sound Tullycraft carved with 1996’s Old Traditions, New Standards. So a new album, as scene-referential as it is, could seem a bit nostalgic – the grown-ups looking in on the new kids, reminiscing about old times, or bemoaning that it’s ‘not like it used to be’. It could… but instead they’ve come up with a triumphant celebration of the very world they helped to revive all those years ago.
Like so many of the fanzines and club nights associated with indiepop, Lost In Light Rotation is wonderfully light humoured, taking good natured swipes at itself. References to twee-pop clichés – band t-shirts, girls with bangs, 7″ records – are packed in, as are nods to the bands at its core… most noticeably Bis’s 1996 single This Is Fake DIY (a band who, in an act of satisfying symmetry, not only released their first singles just before Tullycraft, but are set to reform to play at this year’s Indietracks festival).
The album’s title track is a song for a thousand moods; it studies heartbreak, the fleeting popstar, and fake DIY bands and fans. It’s an anthem of solidarity; a battle cry to indie kids to protect what they hold dearly. Similarly, Queen Co sees frontman Sean Tollefson sing: “I love my music and I’m tired of my fake friends.” His sneering, nasal vocals and drawn-out delivery are one of the most replicated ingredients of Tullycraft’s sound, and they are put to best use when harmonising with Jenny Mears, a relative latecomer who joined the band for 2005’s Disenchanted Hearts Unite.
From Wichita With Love is perhaps the album’s best ambassador – a call and response song that fuses ’60s girl groups (as Mears’ “He asked me if I wanted to dance with you” is met with “Do you wanna dance?”) with crunching, jangly guitars and lo-fi production that, if roughed up a little more, would be at home on a Milky Wimpshake album.
Elsewhere the album runs the gauntlet of emotions but always with an upbeat optimism. It’s charming without grating, cheerful without being too glossy. They’ve proved that time and hindsight can both be good things if used in the right way. After nearly two decades, Tullycraft may have just produced their best album yet.