Following mixed reactions from their 2008 sophomore release, Walk it Off
, Tapes 'n Tapes returned to their own self-run label, Ibid Records, for the release of their 3rd album Outside
. Trying to resurface the band's off-the-cuff approach to their 2005 debut, Loon
tip toes into elements of their early days of reckless abandon. Unfortunately, the album does not seem to carry the same buzz of excitement that drove Loon
out of obscurity and into a growing list of up and coming indie bands to watch. Six years later, Outside
demonstrates solidarity to sound, but not as much growth. There is an unassuming quality to the happy-go-lucky flavor of the album, but as a whole does not explore much depth or distance between songs. Nonetheless, Outside
is one of those albums that, the louder it is, the more is moves you, but has enough calm and structure for background music on a long drive.
In some ways, though pleasantly catchy, Outside
gives off an understated air of the white swan / black swan dilemma (but with much less distress than Natalie Portman). Dark undertones coat a few tracks ("Nightfall", "Outro"). "The Saddest of all Keys" approaches with the attitude of an animal stalking its prey as Josh Grier's vocals transform to express his anguished emotion and compliment the drawn out beats. But the album still reconnects with its white swan by maintaining the band's ease of simple freedom.
The first single, "Freak Out", is reflective of what you will find within the rest of the album. If you're grooving to "Freak Out", you will most likely be pleased with the remaining tracks. Many of the songs, while homogeneous, do not disappoint when standing on their own ("Badaboom", "Desert Plane"). This is especially true with "Hidee Ho"; you can feel the heartfelt agitation in Grier's shouts, which is mirrored in the music as it picks up later in the song. "People You Know" is another of these, and is carried with strong lyrics that can strike pretty deep when considered carefully.
There are some quirky ones too, of course. "One in the World" colors outside the lines, and as "Mighty Long" begins, don't be fooled because you did not just reach the next level in Mario. Surprise! You're still listening to Tapes 'n Tapes. It's just a pleasant song, as they all are. The album feels a little bit like it goes "On and On" for "Mighty Long" (oh, the irony), but there are no moments of tangible disappointment.
All in all, Outside
does what it set out to do, as it is a mixed transition of returning to roots with a slightly polished sound. It does not offer any particular spark of newfound inspiration, but if you're a fan of Tapes 'n Tapes, you now have twelve more tracks to add to your catalog.
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MP3: "Freak Out"
Tapes 'n Tapes on Myspace