ALBUM REVIEW: Tapes ‘n Tapes – Outside

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C- — [Rating Scale]

Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Freak Out” (MP3)
Tapes ‘n Tapes – “On and On”
Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Badaboom”

Rough and tumble indie rock is the business Tapes ‘n Tapes should be in. The Minneapolis quartet’s third album, Outside, is a record that explores many different sounds, but never sounds as good as when they get back to the roots that made them stand out on their debut The Loon.

The gritty guitars and vague orchestrations on Outside often suggest an untapped energy that is rarely really released. The tracks that deliver on some sort of catharsis are fantastic. Interestingly, the tracks that fulfill that promise are titled accordingly, “Badaboom” and “Freak Out” being two of the best examples. Both tracks, in their own way, exude a raw energy that enhances the Tapes ‘n Tapes sound.

Lead singer Josh Grier’s gruff voice is a reason for that energy in every song. On many tracks he uses a half-yelling, half-singing inflection that, when matched up well with the music, works well. Coupled with the rough guitars, a lot of Outside has a near lo-fi feel to it.

This band is no Grizzly Bear or The xx, their entire aesthetic works better with energy than sophistication. That’s not to say they don’t or shouldn’t display sophistication, it’s just when there is some semblance of a lo-fi feel, it works best when it gives the effect of emotion or a story you can almost physically grasp.

None of the songs on Outside are bad. Some, however, are boring. Which can be just as detrimental to a band as clearly talented as Tapes ‘n Tapes. For every standout track there’s one that employs similar tactics to a lesser effect.

The tail end of the record shifts to down tempo, blues-infused cuts. But tracks like “Hidee Ho” lack the emotional and instrumental soul that would make a great blues song. The attempts here, for the most part, fall flat and add to the slow pace of the album and sporadic tones.

“On and On” is a bright spot at the end of the record, a beautiful song composed of creative effects. The random bleeps and accordion-sounding instrument are what really characterize the track. And when they fade into the smooth chorus accompanied by the similarly randomized, but softer-on-the-ears tinkling of a xylophone, the whole thing comes together. It’s proof that the standout tracks here are really good songs, and Tapes ‘n Tapes are a really good band, but the overall direction as an album needs some work. It’s impossible to reconcile the fact that, even at only 45 minutes long, Outside seems to drag on forever.

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