Soundbites: Tapes n’ Tapes n’ the art of stability

If youre a big fan of any band, New Record Release Tuesday is characterized by blind hope. But if youre smart, you reserve some space in your head for reality, for the what-ifs. 

What if, like so many have with the advent of skinny jeans, my favorite band took the bait of a trend? What if their sound has changed? Im fine with that no, really, it probably means theyve progressed as artists, and Im happy for them, you lie to yourself.

No such trepidation necessary for Tapes n Tapes third disc, Outside. The Minneapolis-spawned, slightly experimental rockers have progressed just enough since their 2005 debut The Loon. Having graduated from Walk It Off, a more disjointed second album, Tapes hones its sound, or at least stabilizes it, and it works to their benefit.

Outsider is mostly about playing it straight, hooks and all, with a heavy nod to the bands indie beginnings. Not to say its without vigor. The foursome is still a creative dynamo, as Outro proves with its meshing of horns, keys and gruff guitar. But songs like Freak Out (a sure single, if they wanted one) and the lackadaisical, oldie-inspired People You Know display a straighten-up-and-fly-right demeanor.

Throughout the album, two things are obvious: Tapes n Tapes listened to a lot of Pavement growing up, and whether they mean to or not, Josh Griers guitar and even his voice echo Tom Verlaines and Television. The unhurried Hidee Ho is a great example of Verlaine-type guitar verve, and The Saddest of All Keys recalls Televisions Marquee Moon. Verlaine would consider it flattering, not faking, Im sure, because Tapes n Tapes makes their own music.

One track throws the listener off a bit, but there are no real throw-away tracks on the album. One in the World is tacky, evocative of a carnival scene the scary kind with overgrown clowns and vertigo mirror houses.

Drummer Jeremy Hansons versatility deserves praise from his bandmates on this disc. He can handle it all, from the thudding, punching Desert Plane to the lagging People You Know. And Matt Kretzmanns sidekick keyboards and horn round out the bands consistent sound.

Outsider is a little more predictable than Tapes n Tapes first two releases, but stability is just what they needed. And what all fans of theirs will need, lest New Record Release Tuesday turns into Terrible Tuesday of Too Much Messing With a Good Thing.

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