Tanlines- Mixed Emotions
By: Stone Irr
Pulsing beats, naturalized rhythms, and streamlined melodies fill Tanlines’ Mixed Emotions. The first full-length record from the duo of Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen offers much promise, especially when considering their previous work (Emm previously played in the wonderful post/math-rock band Don Caballero). They have recently been garnering continued coverage and attention from NPR and their performance at SXSW.
Effortless song structure with a driving techno melody permeates throughout the album opener “All of Me”. A pleasing blast of noise hits the listener’s ears during the chorus; this noise is combined with a simple but necessary-sounding harmony between the two musicians. With this first song, you hear the duo’s inclination to exercise these consistent beats, tempos, and textures for all they are worth. This can create some source of conflict of repetitiousness and tedious content. But nonetheless, the drum machine is at full capacity on this album. In some songs such as “Cactus” and “Abby” there are very textured rhythms happening with just the right amount of noticeable variation throughout the songs.
As stated before, the album does tend to drag with similar tempos and an overall emptiness that can’t be fully redeemed by vocal melodies- there is only so much you can do between two musicians. Lyrically, the band attempts at being clever with hit and miss results. “Yes Way” does just this- adding in a promising framework for lyrics but never really supplying a worthwhile return.
“Yes Way” has the potential to be a whimsical track, but just stands as oversimplified, acoustic-electric ballad (sidenote: never title your acoustic-electric ballad track “Yes Way”) But alas, “Not The Same” delivers what “Yes Way” can’t. It offers a proper build up and memorable hooks- complete with the poignant singer-song writer lyrics. An “ohhh-woah” breakdown is properly placed in the middle of the track for added variation. “You are so intent on being everything/ you are so intent on pleasing everyone” becomes the song’s contentious issue. This dispute is relieved with meager piano and a different interpretation of the lines “to everyone/ we are not the same”.
“Lost Somewhere” feels and sounds like a lost New Order track, complete with a synthetic symbol crash on every down beat. Sounds of an old Casio keyboard played in the intro and break down of the track further propel the 80’s nostalgia. “Need some more/ give me a sign” leaves a final hook in the listener’s head to give this track some legs.
Tribal drums instantly set up “Real Life” to be one of the danciest tracks on the album but do nothing else. The song stands to only be noisy and contains little nutrients, like a box of Nerds (delicious for the time being but creates painful ramifications after prolonged consumption).
Distant, spacey chords establish a sense of disconnect for the last song of the album. “Alright I said I’m ready to go” ushers in a wordless chorus but before you know it the song quickly resolves with one simple element remaining: snapping fingers. This embodies much of the album’s emphasis: simplicity of beats, melody and lyrics.
There are some wonderfully lush and memorable songs on Mixed Emotions (“All Of Me”, “Not The Same”, “Lost Somewhere”) but their playfulness ends up being their downfall. Most of the songs fail to be decisive, in construction and content- giving the listener… Well, mixed emotions. But I believe this is the point of Tanlines’ debut album. A line from “Cactus” perfectly summarizes this album’s existence by stating, “there’s no convoluted reason it should be.” It just is.