Available on: True Panther Sounds LP
Perhaps it is deeply cynical to be, from the outset, suspicious of any duo from Brooklyn who used to be in bands attempting a ‘danceable’ new project. If so, is it bad that their debut album being mixed by Jimmy ‘The Senator’ Douglass, of Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z and Kanye West fame, only heightens the sense that this is not going to be a successful outcome?
Flippancy aside, it is difficult not to find these elements as warning signs, and unfortunately Mixed Emotions by Tanlines does not prove them wrong. This is a shame, because there appears to be talent and energy and a distinct lack of self-consciousness about Jesse Cohen (of Professor Murder) and Eric Emm’s (Don Caballero and Storm and Stress) collaborative project.
Not to say it was a conscious decision, but the overall result in mind appears to have been some kind of collision between Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective – surf guitars, syncopated bongo-like percussion, harmony vocals and the occasional drum machine and synths – which could have been a very interesting prospect if executed well. However, in practice the parts don’t fit together. The record sounds, to use a fitting cliché, over-produced; mastered beautifully, but with this process showing how there is relatively little that gives the songs any individual character, let alone the outfit themselves.
‘Nonesuch’ has great moments, but too much melodrama, and ‘Cactus’ is let down dramatically by a passionate lack of imagination in its loud ‘yeah yeah, yay-yo’ non-chorus. ‘All Of Me’ sounds like a remix of an original indie track by a stock producer, the kind of thing you’d hear down the gym, and ‘Abby’ follows a weird Balearic ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ vibe.
‘Not The Same’ also attempts a dance theme, its piano house riff paired with misguided trance stabs and nasal vocals, whereas the vox of ‘Real Life’ and ‘Lost Somewhere’ sound off-puttingly like they were written for a polite football chant. The former even dabbles with a bizarre accent; never a good idea.
However, the latter, despite borrowing heavily from The Beach Boys’ ‘I Know There’s An Answer’, is one of their stronger songs, with complimentary instruments playing complimentary parts. ‘Rain Delay’ hints at Panda Bear and The Cure, which works for their sound and, despite being maddeningly suggestive of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Any Dream Will Do’, the relaxed ‘Laughing’ is actually also a good track.
There is other good content too; ‘Green Grass’ has a great ‘Casio Foo Fighters’ energy, and ‘Brothers’ blends the right amount of 80s car-cruising instrumentation and groove to the throaty, more-melodic-than-The-Ramones Ramones vocals. Even its ‘yeah, yeah, heyo’ counter-harmonies aren’t that annoying.
It does, however, seem that it is among this thick-layered, laid-back beach rock that the pair hit their stride. Yet through lacking the warm, lack-of-finesse of other outfits like Part Time, Wavves or Friends, Tanlines’s debut comes across as well-meaning but overly earnest, overly-invested and trying hard to do many things at once.