Tanlines: Highlights (True Panther) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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True Panther

May 28, 2015 Tanlines Bookmark and Share

I only have memories of listening to Tanlines in summer months, which led me to mistakenly believe they timed each of their first three releases (two EPs and one LP) to coincide with the arrival of warm weather following demoralizing cold winters. Of course, that never happened (those records were released March 2010, December 2010, and March 2012, respectively) but listening to Tanlines’ Balearic Beat driven synth pop, it’s easy to pull on some rose-colored glasses and ignore the details: this is effervescent music that feels perpetually sunbaked and bright, ready to soundtrack that relatively chill corner of Ibiza that hasn’t been dancing on drugs for 40 hours. Considering lead singer, and former Don Caballero bassist, Eric Emm and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen named their goddamn band Tanlines, you can only assume this was on purpose, but too much lightness and ocean spray made it hard to appreciate their work beyond background beach music.

And, yes, while their 2012 debut full-length Mixed Emotions dabbled in melancholy with songs such as the down-key “Not the Same” and swooning “Abby,” the majority of that album felt designed to dissolve like an island sunset. They return now with Highlights, an album that infuses their house music-lite impulses with traditional instrumentation (read: more guitars) and an even broader sense of contentment and ease. It’s soft rock with a drum machine that doesn’t do much beyond providing another fine summer soundtrack, which is a noble pursuit in and of itself: the shimmering guitar, double time beat, and effortless harmony of “Slipping Away” is the musical equivalent of a condensing can of Tecate; the moody, knowing disco of “Palace” sounds like it’s locked into a perpetual magic hour; and the watery acoustic guitar riffs and general Chris Isaak-vibe of “Invisible Ways” makes a damn fine campfire song.

The problems arise when the music doesn’t comply with the occasional yearning that darkens the album for mere moments before switching back to sun-fried bliss. On lead track “Pieces,” a song which has a beat and keyboard riff that could have been ripped from 80 percent of Tanlines’ back catalog, Emm’s thick, beautiful voice tries to sell emotional duress (“I fall to pieces, when you’re away” goes the chorus) that sounds and feels like pablum. The Longwave-like (remember them?) “Bad Situations” and the pensive inertia of “Running Still” are chilly stabs at nuance that miss the mark and are hard to take seriously.

Regardless, while Highlights still has many moments of unapologetic fun where Emm and Cohen sound like they could write those gorgeous, summery songs in their sleep, they have also rebuffed and polished their signature sound to the point where every attempt at deeper songwriting gets lost in the gloss. (www.tanlinesinternet.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10


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