Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Tru Thoughts
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Alternative Dance
Brooklyn duo Tanlines return with a second helping of laid-back, romantic synth and guitar pop on their sophomore LP Highlights. The humid Balearic impulses and tropical rhythms of their slightly more danceable debut are more subdued here, though these warm, contemplative pop songs feel no less sunny or pleasing. Bandmates Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm began the project back in Pittsburgh with an album songwriting session at Emm's childhood home.
This Brooklyn duo had one of the best indie hits in recent memory with 2012's "All of Me," a beautifully sculpted nugget of sad-Eighties dance pop. On their second album, singer-guitarist Eric Emm and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen sound like they burn prayer candles to the moany ghosts of OMD and ABC, but the pair's songs take you places you don't expect — from the Roy Orbison-ish country goth of "Invisible Ways" to the Afropop buoyancy of "Slipping Away." "Nobody wants to be alone, sittin' by themselves watching falling snow," Emm intones on the doleful "If You Stay," as chamomile jangle keeps him warm. Even at its most mournful, this is an album charged by bright ideas.
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.
Never say that margarita-wave duo Tanlines don’t know how to roll out a beachball of a record. In preparation for their second studio album, Highlights, percussionist Jesse Cohen and guitarist/vocalist Eric Emm relaunched their official band website as a Netflix parody, complete with parody movie posters; winking, on-point descriptions (“Our hero has been poisoned with an insatiable desire to drink from the fountain of eternal life…soon he’ll find that love is the only antidote”); and their sophomore release streaming from start to finish for “binge-listening” purposes — a brilliant marketing technique for which Tanlines deserve all the Webbys. It’s unfortunate, then, that the follow-up to 2012’s steel drum-backed beach party, Mixed Emotions, becomes droopy-eyed after, oh, track three.
After Random Access Memories, The 20/20 Experience, and Reflektor, we were tired of protracted album release stunts. Now we have Surprise-Album Fatigue. Granted, Tanlines don’t answer to as big of an audience as Justin Timberlake or Beyoncé. But they deserve an immense amount of credit for constructing a rollout for Highlights that likely could’ve gone on for another two years without complaint.
One-time Billboard Heatseekers Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm are making music in the perfect decade of throwback musical energies. Julian Casablancas even took them on tour for a while, and we know how awesome buddying up with the Stroke can be to anybody’s career — just ask The Lonely Island. Tanlines’ 2012 debut LP, Mixed Emotions, received rave attention in the early ‘10s for doing what every form of retro-glazed indie pop has done since Ryan Gosling played a laconic getaway driver: perpetually milking the synthesizers.
If you're looking for a cheerful addition to your summer indie rock playlists, Tanlines' second album fits the bill. Recorded by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor - his fingerprint audible throughout - it starts off strong, bouncing and glistening with dance-floor-ready fare, singer/guitarist Eric Emm's low vocals the anchor and Jesse Cohen fleshing out the electronic foundation with pleasant if innocuous soundscapes. The New York City-based duo, which began as a remix project in 2008, spread variety across the 10 songs, getting darker and more seductive on Two Thousand Miles, just after bringing Yeasayer to mind on Palace.