Minnesota’s Tapes N Tapes exploded on the scene in 2005 with an innovative indie rock album (“The Loon”) that was heavy on hooks and rhythms, and really helped define blogpop for at least 8 months. Truly, they were huge. They got a recording contract, went off and made a highly produced, largely uninspired sophomore album that took too long to make (it came out in 2008) and lost all their heat. It’s been another 3 years, and the band is back. So, what’s the third one like?
First of all, it’s independent and self-produced like their first album, and second of all it’s not as polished as their second. These are good things. But the band can’t erase it’s six year history, and some of the bad lessons learned from their “recording contract” are still here–especiallly in the albums earlier cuts. But the album’s second half, which begins, fittingly, with a song called “Outro,” is a fine return to the rougher, more organic–and much more fun–music of their debut. “The Saddest of All Keys” and “Hidee Ho” recalls Cold War Kids’ desperate, painful brand of indie rock; “It’s Always the People You Know” fuses honkytonk and cabaret to make a fantastic pop song that ends abruptly and too soon; and “Mighty Long” stands up there with anything Modest Mouse has done in the last five years.
And I don’t want to give the impression that the first half of the album is terrible–it’s not. It’s just forgettable. But everything that follows “Outro” sounds exactly like where this band should be–and should have been in 2006, after their brilliant debut. They’re older, a little more polished, and their looking for something new to define themselves by. “Outside” probably isn’t it. But it’s a good start. If this is their transition album, then I have hope for the future.