Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tanlines' "Mixed Emotions" Album Review

Brooklyn duo Tanlines have flown under many music lovers' radar since their formation in 2009. Granted, the group has only produced a 6-song EP (Settings, in 2010) and a healthy amount of remixes, but most of their previous works are quite accessible, featuring incredibly upbeat and boisterous beats and samples.

Mixed Emotions will be released next week (March 20, via True Panther), and it's difficult for me to imagine the duo not getting a lot of attention moving forward.

The album starts with the duo's first two singles, "Brothers" and "All of Me," both of the songs on the polar opposite ends of the album's dichotomy: "Brothers" being a more new-wave-inspired song, slower-paced and inspired track, while "All of Me" finds Tanlines right where they left off with Settings.

While Settings was a more dance-infused album, focusing mainly on catchy uses of bongos, steel drums, campy bass and guitar sections, Mixed Emotions takes lyrical content to a new level for Tanlines. Eric Emm (vocals, guitar) does an amazing job at harnessing his vocal and lyrical abilities (despite a reference to "Roll-over minutes") to fit along with each song's unique qualities, mixing bright and inspirational with dark and moody when needed to coincide with the music he and bandmate, Jesse Cohen, have created. Check out "Yes Way," where Emm does a spot-on "impersonation" of Morrisey during the chorus.

Take into consideration the dichotomy I mentioned above. On songs like "Green Grass," "All of Me" "Yes Way" and "Cactus," Emm brings a light-hearted complex into full effect. Coupled with the drums and guitars of each song, the music is fully beach-ready; what else would you expect from a band named Tanlines?

However, the songs that shimmer to me are the ones which find Tanlines testing the water (pun intended) with a more melodramatic sound. As I said before, Settings found the duo experimenting with a convivial and festive sound. Mixed Emotions features many songs that are a bit slower-paced and serious in nature. But again, the songs feature enough of the sound that Tanlines embraces so well, that your head is still bobbing along with the beats. "Brothers," "Abby," and the finale "Nonesuch" all fit into this new "movement" Tanlines is exploring. And don't even get me started on the gloriousness that is Emm's stand-alone vocals towards the end of "Not The Same," which makes the track one of the best I've heard all year.

This genuine blend of both regal and dramatic genres reminds me a lot of the New Wave movement from the 70s and 80s, so by no means am I stating that Tanlines is redefining a genre of music; we've heard music like this before.

As an avid modern-music fan, it's very exhilarating to find a band like Tanlines, who take their music very seriously, but still produce radiant and engulfing music. Very uncharacteristically, I've, in a way, kept this band to myself for the past two years. But with Mixed Emotions, Tanlines is going to make that impossible for me to do moving forward.

My Rating: 4.8/5

You can stream the album over at NPR before it's released on March 20.

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