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Walk It Off

Tapes 'n Tapes

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Album Review

On Walk It Off, Tapes 'n Tapes' first album for XL, the band trades the energy of The Loon for a more polished, cohesive sound, but it's hard to say that they got the better end of the deal. The Loon was often scattered, but appealingly so — it sounded like what it was, a pile of tapes (and tapes!) turned into a scrappy debut album. More importantly, nearly every song on The Loon had an urgency that carried through the album's twists and turns. Tapes 'n Tapes didn't change their approach radically for Walk It Off — their nasally vocals, angular guitars, and keyboard doodles are all in place — but that urgency is missing, and it makes a difference. The band worked with Dave Fridmann on this album, and while teaming a quintessential indie rock producer like him with a band of indie rock classicists like Tapes 'n Tapes might seem like a good idea on paper, it doesn't quite work. Too many of the band's rambunctious edges have been buffed away, so that even when "Le Ruse"'s guitar solo splatters like silly string, it doesn't make much of an impact. And even though Fridmann's work isn't that elaborate — by his standards, anyway — Walk It Off's layers of sound seem to take precedence over the actual songs, as on "George Michael" (so named because the song's opening riff reminded the band of "Faith"), where the whooshing synths and lavish brass are more memorable than the melody or lyrics. That's Walk It Off's main problem: Tapes 'n Tapes make pretty straightforward music, with no eight-minute suites or wildly eclectic instrumentation to distract from whether or not their songs connect. They fail to connect to a disappointing degree here, whether on "Anvil" and "Time of Songs," which cross over from calm to listless, or on "Demon Apple" and "Blunt," rockers that mistake repetition for insistence. However, there are just as many moments when Tapes 'n Tapes pull it together: "Hang Them All" recalls The Loon's grit and energy; "Conquest"'s playful percussion, pristine chords, and roundabout yearning sound like a heart skipping a beat; and "Say Back Something" may be Walk It Off's finest moment, a nervous ballad about the subtle silence that can creep up on a couple and split them in two. "Lines" even shows how well Tapes 'n Tapes and Fridmann's collaboration could've worked for the entire album, building a looping melody from a languid (but not limp) start to galloping drums and guitars that bust out of the gate (the distorted drums that make "Headshock" sound even more impatient are another great example of when the band and producer are on the same page). For all the effort spent on Walk It Off, nothing makes as much of a visceral impact here as songs like "Insistor" did on The Loon — often, it feels like there's fog or a glass wall between the music and listeners' ears. Walk It Off is hardly a disaster, but it is a strange, lopsided album — despite its focus, it just doesn't play to Tapes 'n Tapes strengths as much as it should have.

Biography

Formed: 2003 in Minneapolis, MN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Minneapolis, MN, indie rock classicists Tapes 'n Tapes formed in the winter of 2003, when guitarist/vocalist Josh Grier (aka "Tapes 1"), bassist Matt Kretzmann ("'n") and guitarist Steve Nelson ("Tapes 2") began crafting a sound that harked back to the Pixies and Pavement and also recalled more contemporary bands like the Shins. Nelson left the band, with drummer Karl Schweitz becoming the band's second "Tapes"; this lineup recorded the Tapes 'n Tapes EP in early 2004, recording in a cabin in Wisconsin....
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Walk It Off, Tapes 'n Tapes
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