The tendency for reviews is generally to compare whatever artist is being reviewed to other artists– especially established ones– to help describe to the reader what a particular band is like. This helps guide the reader to a particular sound or aspect of a sound. Unfortunately, it also has the effect of possibly pidgeonholing the band.
And, so it is with Minneapolis band Tapes ‘n Tapes. I started listening to this album last week. Frankly, I can’t stop listening to it for long. I’ve been swimming though a lot of albums from bands lately, and I’m always hoping for a complete work– strong songs from start to finish. In some cases, I get it, in some I don’t. I think this record is a winner on every track. Pitchfork reviewed this album and gave it a glowing review (in Pitchfork terms– an 8.3!). The reviewer pulls the reference right away– Pixies, Pavement, Wire and the Beach Boys. I’d agree with the first three anyway. The track “Insistor” is clearly a Pixies prototype down to the boom-chuck-boom-chuck Mexican style drums and surfy guitar tone. The lead singer spitting out reverbby vocals. Surfer Rosa, anyone? Come on Pilgrim!
My problem is I love the Pixies. So, I hear this as a derivative of that style and it feels really good. It isn’t fair to just peg them this way, but that is where it starts for me anyway. Every song on this album stands on its own as a gem. All songs seem to be executed with an urgency that I sincerely hope they will hold on to for their future works. It’s a bit astonishing to me how tight these tracks are– colored with precision and tone. In the track “In Houston” the song changes between verses in time and style. Alternating buzzy synth and guitars and post-rocky marimbas.
Tapes ‘n Tapes played SXSW this year and were invited to play a broadcast set for KXEP. The interviewer seemed to be in the same position I was in. She just got the CD one day and was amazed by it. This band seems to be just coming out of the blue with this record. And, their live shows seem to sound as good as this album! They said they’ve been together for three years. It looks like they had an EP or album out earlier before they released the Loon. She asks them if they had a big pile of songs to choose from, or if they just had this great set of songs to work with. Kind of a back-handed compliment, I guess. But, I know what she means. How is it possible this band has all of these songs so polished? In an interview with the band they state that they’ve been working on these songs for a while and “get what we had down on record.” She also points out hesitatingly that the band sounds a lot like the Pixies. Their response: “Yeah, we listen to a lot of Pixies records– what can you do?”
Take a listen to some tracks from The Loon
Here is the KXEP Show on the Austin City Limits stage served up by Fresh Bread complete with interview segments.
Tapes ‘n Tapes will be playing The Mill in Iowa City on 3/31 as part of the Mission Creek Midwest Festival along with local favorites Death Ships, Golden Birds from San Francisco, and The Attic Recordings from Chicago. I haven’t heard any of these groups before, but I know that Death Ships is a typical “bill filler” for the Mill.