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Album Review
Mixed Emotions

Mixed Emotions
by Tanlines

Label
True Panther
Rating

Review Date
31st May 2012
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

Mixed Emotions is the debut album from Brooklyn, New York duo Tanlines. Made up of Eric Emm (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Jesse Cohen (drums, keyboards, bass), on Mixed Emotions, Tanlines mine an oh so current intersection of musical styles. Grounded in demos originally written with guitar and voice, across Mixed Emotions twelve song running order, Emm drapes his New Wave redolent baritone over bubbling synthetic instrumentals. Characterised by a dichotomy between digital and organic, these backing beds fold conventions drawn from the Tropical musical world, melodically ascendant African music and the offbeat/percussive house side of the UK bass music hardcore continuum into a pop aspiring platform for Emm's personal lyrical storytelling.

Much like their stylistic peers and label mates Lemonade, through Mixed Emotions, Tanlines fundamental mission statement is to bring the songs back to the forefront in a scene more focused on vibes and environments than enduring hooks, lines and bars. And again, like Lemonade, they prize humanity in an increasingly inhuman, hyperlinked zeros and ones world. In a sense, the exaggerated melodramatic voice which Emm uses to push his stories of loss and the turning of the hand of time's great clock does a perfect job of rendering these tales in an anthem level scale, especially on ear worms like 'Brothers', 'Green Grass' and 'Not The Same'. However, the self styled "Stadium pop in small spaces" sound which serves as an overt text to these pieces and other less instantaneous cuts on the record draws a direct thread of connection between Tanlines and The Police, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and their peers, which will for a certain type of listener, be extremely off-putting/cringe worthy.

This is a shame, because in terms of instrumental forms, while Mixed Emotions isn't progressive by any stretch of the imagination, it provides a great case study in how to write indie rock formatted dance music aimed towards the first heart strings, hips second, as also seen on Lemonade's recent album Diver. With liberal use of rolling percussion, steady programmed house rhythms and wavy keyboard lines, pads and textures, this backdrop could also be described as akin to a trip through Caribbean waters on a futuristic loveboat cruise, one riddled with loss, 80s soft rock karaoke sessions and drinks with little Hawaiian patterned cocktail umbrellas.

For me personally, after repeated listens, Mixed Emotions elicits a split personality style response. While numbers like soft rock with house drums jam 'Lost Somewhere' take me back to Miami Vice (in the worst way possible), offbeat bongos-meet-swirling synth bounce numbers such as 'Real Life' slot in perfectly from both dancefloor and listening perspectives. Again, numbers like 'Yes Maybe' while kicking off promisingly in a Vampire Weekend style afro pop-rock form, attempt to awkwardly hedge 50s croonerisms into the mix. In juxtaposition, 'Abby' utilizes UK Funky drum rhythms and cloudy synth pads with Emm singing with airy spirit to success. Ultimately, I feel like there is more to like than dislike here, but some bridges will be hard to cross.


Links
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