Release Date: Aug 28, 2015
Record label: Mexican Summer
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Shoegaze
By the mid-2010s, the revivals of shoegaze and synth pop had been around for quite a while -- several times longer than the styles' original heydays, in fact -- and sometimes felt overly familiar. However, Tamaryn enlivens both by combining them on Cranekiss, resulting in some of her most arresting music yet. It's quite the departure from the distortion-laden bliss of Waves and Tender New Signs, echoing changes such as her move to New York and the addition of Weekend's Shaun Durkan to her band.
The act of reinvention is a time-honoured tradition in the world of pop. From global megastars like Madonna and Bob Dylan to lesser-known indie outfits like The Horrors, a shift in direction can often lead to rejuvenated results. Of course, it can also have the opposite effect, as Smashing Pumpkins and Yeasayer have found to their peril. .
Tamaryn’s Cranekiss is a big step for the project, a move out of the denser shoegaze thickets of Tender New Signs and The Waves into a pure, sugary dream-pop world. It features the kind of glossy production made popular in the 1980s and '90s by John Fryer of This Mortal Coil in his myriad productions for 4AD, Mute, and Beggars Banquet—Cocteau Twins, Xmal Deutschland, Clan of Xymox, Chapterhouse. Tamaryn herself is the only constant between her past two albums and this one, changing instrumental personnel (here she works with Shaun Durkan of Weekend) and production credits (Jorge Elbrecht of Violens, who has also worked with Ariel Pink and No Joy) from her previous incarnation.
Like how many first-wave shoegazers embraced analog-oriented projects after seeing their brief pedal-happy scene (the one that supposedly “celebrated itself”) overtaken by 90s Britpop, a similar aesthetic trend occurred the decade before, when post-punk acts of the black-clad variety shed their gloomy atmospherics in favor of embracing an unprecedented availability (affordability) of synthesizers, thereby ushering in what came to be called New Wave. Regrettably, in reacting to both phenomena, what many fans and critics seemed to forget was that they were still dealing with the same artists. After all, post-shoegaze folk songs were unlike any other acoustic folk songs, and similarly so for any of the colorful keyboard-heavy pop songs that were coming from former post-punk proto-goths.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. When Tamaryn released her debut record, 2010's The Waves, she found herself quickly pigeonholed amongst the shoegaze revivalists. Here was an album of whirring guitars, and a vocal performance that was more about conveying an atmosphere than any distinct meaning - it's safe to say that it wore its influences proudly.
Tamaryn returns with a wistful platter of dream pop, her third album for Mexican Summer. She has the playfulness of a painter, drawing from a palette of dream pop, shoegaze, and psychedelia. On this LP, Tamaryn does a fair imitation of 4AD in the 1980s, echoes of This Mortal Toil and Cocteau Twins abound. Expect a fair amount of swirling guitars and effects contrasted by ethereal vocals.
New Zealand-born, New York-based vocalist Tamaryn has certainly paid her gothic dues. Her two previous albums - 2010’s The Waves and Tender New Signs two years later - were awash with drowsy reverb and soporific atmospherics. Containing the likes of “Mild Confusion”, and “Heavenly Bodies”, her seductive coos - part Curve’s Toni Halliday, part Hope Sandoval - were the perfect foil to Rex Shelverton’s vivid shoegaze guitar fuzz.
From the opening moments of Cranekiss, you realize that Tamaryn’s latest album is new in more ways than one. Gone are the swirling guitars and shoegaze-style rhythms—the defining qualities of her last outing, 2012’s Tender New Signs. In their place are an assemblage of synths and drum machines, all chugging away toward a very different style and sound than her previous work.