by Ian Anderson
The sophomore release from local rockers Tapes ‘n Tapes proves that they are, in fact, sticking around for some time. Embodying a sound that is distinctly reminiscent of 1973, the record sounds like David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, but with more dirt and frustration.
Lead singer and guitarist Josh Grier’s vocals quiver with a sensitivity similar to that of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst or the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler, but with a poignant sense of pride and dignity that hints at a closeted Talking Heads fan—think David Byrne’s syncopation and pitch inflections, but with an actual melody behind it.
Jeremy Hanson’s snare snaps like a whip while his kick drum peaks over
the rest of the band, hiccupping as compression beats down on it. Bass player
Shawn Neary’s transparent bass lines blend seamlessly with Hanson, forming
a solid rhythm section. The bass tends to drive each song, but doesn’t
overpower. In general, Neary’s parts follow the policy of keeping it simple,
but he knows when and where he is needed to step up to the plate. Synth and
baritone player Matt Kretzmann actually isn’t on the record because it
was recorded during his year-long stint in Seattle building houses with Habitat
Recorded over seven days with engineer and producer Erik Appelwick, The Loon
possesses a polished—but not too polished—sound that finally accurately
represents how the band’s always strived to sound. “We wanted it
to sound good but not overproduced; we wanted it to sound like us,” Grier
said. “I just think it’s cool to have a record that sounds like
the music when we play it—and how it sounds in my head. It’s a good
representation of what we want it to sound like.”
“It’s just good to have a record that sounds good,” Neary
said. “But more objectively, having rehearsed those songs for a long time,
finally getting them down, having them sound good and potentially having those
be the vehicle for us to get out there is what’s important.”
‘n Tapes have come a long way from the production level of their first
self-titled release, which was actually recorded in a cabin without running
water or plumbing in the great wilderness of Burnett County, Wisconsin.
“It’s a good mix of rocking and full on Tapes ‘n Tapes,”
Kretzmann said. “I didn’t get to lay down any of my tracks or phat
beats, so I had no idea what this was going to sound like. I knew it wouldn’t
be the same as the first, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.”
Song like “Just Drums” and “Insistor” are definitely
crafted for good, solid rocking. But songs like “Manitoba” and “10
Gallon Ascots” dwell in the arena of late ’50s Christmas carols.
“Manitoba” waltzes gracefully in three-four time, with xylophones,
bells and vast vocal orchestration doused in reverb in the background. The song
brings you under its spell to such an extent that a cameo by Bing Crosby is
half-expected. This song, in particular, showcases Grier’s habit of writing
vague lyrics that just sound great: “Houses float in Manitoba, oh the
shoulders so much older/ I’ve come you’ll come when you see the
streams of boulders higher hills from higher molders.”
few of the songs I could give you a definition for,” Grier said. “My
goal is just not to sound dumb; if you have a good thing musically, just try
not to sound dumb. When we write songs, I just make sounds and when we record,
I try to make those sounds actually [into] words.”
Although these lyrics, at first glance, appear to be just thrown together as
to “not sound dumb,” upon further scrutiny, there is much more to
it that. Grier’s lyrics are cleverly twisted around. Playing with each
line’s syntax provides for interesting rhyming schemes as well as for
content that might be mysterious, but not nonsensical “Will you love me
like a sailor who loves the seven seas,” Grier sings in “The Iliad.”
“And when my bones get older will you drag me to my knees?”
“I like lyrics when you can listen to them and take what you want out
of them without being told what they mean,” Grier said. “You’re
not restricted for what it means to you.”
“It’s like art,” Hanson said with a knowing grin.
“Cowbell” is the record’s true gem. It is by far the best
track on the record and perhaps one of the best local songs this fall. Based
on a Latin-esque beat, the song begins with just Neary playing in an undefined
meter until kick, snare and acoustic guitar come in, forging the way for the
great line: “Leave me now in solitude and stress, I’ve been a better
lover with your mother.” Grier’s bitterness pervades the song until
the well-crafted and epic chorus (“Do you want to live a lie a lie, to
shake a like shake, I’ve been so sure”) when he is spookily accompanied
by his own perverse backing vocals that fill in the space on the track, echoing
his own lines.
The Loon demonstrates the bright future the band has and the bond that has developed
between its members over the past year: “There is a lot of hugging,”
Grier said. “A lot of man love.” ||
Tapes ‘n Tapes play their CD release show for The Loon on Fri., Oct.
28 at the Turf Club with Bridge Club and Friends Like These. 9 p.m. 21+. $5.
For more information on the band, visit their official
website at TapesnTapes.com.