Sometimes, there’s just too much music to listen to. Unfortunately, this means that there are many bands that have gone under my radar and not into my itunes collection. As I searched the web recently for new bands, I came across a name that I had seen throughout the years and had never given an honest try. This band was the Minneapolis spawned Tapes ‘n Tapes. As I read about their new album, I figured I should start at the beginning… what I found was indie gold.
The Loon, the band’s 2005 debut release charmed critics everywhere, placing Tapes ‘n Tapes on the map with the then indie elite. This all happened relatively fast. After listening to the 40+ minute disk, I quickly realized why the band comes up in certain circles every so often. Much to my chagrin, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t lend them my ear before. The Loon has its moments of simplicity, much like a band who’s just getting its feet wet, but there’s a surprising wealth of complexity, too. At times, the group sounds less like an indie band stretching its legs and more like scruffy, seasoned veterans.
The first track, the bouncy and yet aptly titled “Just Drums” is now on every day rotation when I shuffle my iPod. Although Josh Grier’s distorted vocals and the song’s poppy sound veer in a different direction from the rest of the album, its one of the telling tracks on the album, employing a highly enjoyable jam session that naturally fits in a drum solo, as if to keep to its namesake. Basically, they delivered a tune for percussionists, but managed to satiate the rest of the crowd, too. Well, at least myself.
“The Iliad” has a softer sounding intro and remains rather simple, at least musically. It clocks in at only a short change after two minutes, but in that small amount of time, it hits hard lyrically, as Grier channels his inner Cobain, screaming: “The burning size of sirens lies/At least we tried to make it.”
Perhaps the bands biggest hit, or at least the most well known tune off The Loon, is “Insistor”. Right when the guitar strikes, it makes you believe you’re going on a wild ride, similar to the beginning of Muse’s now classic live track, “Knights of Cydonia”. Compared to the rest of the album, “Insistor” feels so advanced. The song writing, the overall performance, and the story itself doesn’t sound like a band who’s recording its first album. Thanks to Grier’s confident vocals, he sounds less vulnerable as he shouts out lines like “And don’t be terse and don’t be shy/just hug my lips and say good lies.” It’s a heavy tale with a not so happy ending as I perceive it.
“Crazy Eights” drops the lyrics for strong instrumentation. This song is actually the one that made me appreciate this band and album the most. It’s an easy listen as it doesn’t work that brain of yours much. It’s not like you’re reading too far into their chanting of “the loon”. It’s a complete 180 from the previous track, in addition to the one that follows, “In Houston”. Many artists, especially on a debut, may be a little more timid for experiementation, but what I gathered from this album was that they were making this for themselves as musicians, not for fans or fame. Respectable.
“Cowbell” takes its place as the heaviest song on the effort. A slow bass line and a fast acoustic strum lead the way to the odd yet humorous lyrics, leaving the band to let out some steam and get angry (“Leave me now/in solitude and stress/I’ve been a better lover with your mother”). Although it’s not something I’d recommend to my friends, it’s an interesting and noteworthy side of the band. They have very tongue in cheek and sarcastic lyrics at times and whether they’re slowing the tempo or speeding it up, it’s worth taking notice.
In one album you can hear as the band matured through the process that is a debut. Final track “Jakov’s Suite” concludes the debut on, well, a bad ass note. There’s no better way to say it. It’s a track like this that makes you think Tapes ‘n Tapes could work as a jam band and still keep the same crowd. All in all, judging from this effort, two things remain clear. This is a band with great chemistry and one that remains true to their sound and intentions. It’s rare I’m tossed back by a first listen. The Loon makes me rethink my listening process altogether. Yeah, pretty strong.