Release Date: Oct 2, 2012
Record label: Team Love
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Heavy Mood is Tilly & the Wall’s first record since 2008’s o pushed the hand-clapping, tap-dancing quintet into a spotlight that included an appearance on one of television’s greatest gifts to humanity: Sesame Street. But while the band certainly show off a self-confident, youthful attitude, their tunes might generally be a little too aggressive for the kiddie set. Sure, a track like gal-pal anthem “Thicker Than Thieves” does a great job of highlighting the power of friendship, but parents might object to the whole “we’ll fuck some bitches up” suggestion.
There’s always been a bit more to Tilly and the Wall than the ever present 'twee' label suggests. Yes, they're a family affair with hand drawn album covers and percussion provided by a tap dancer, yes they’re called ‘Tilly and the Wall’ which hardly suggests Atari Teenage Riot. But as a sonic experience they've always had considerably more bite than the evidence on paper might suggest.
Tilly and the Wall's 2008 record O found the band revising and expanding their sound, relying less on the folky pop template that their first two albums used so well in favor of a harder, more punk-inspired approach that was both a little angrier and a little less effective for being so. At first. it seems that 2012's Heavy Mood is even more angry and aggressive as it leads off with two strident and over-amped dance punk songs ("Love Riot" and "Heavy Mood") that flatten out any subtleties in their sound and just pound the listener over the head with loud drums and over-the-top vocals.
For the first six minutes of their first new record in four years, Omaha indie poppers Tilly and the Wall come out swinging. The muscular, calisthenic pair of songs that opens Heavy Mood announce loud and clear that it intends to be a departure. "We won't be quiet! We're gonna get wild!" Kianna Alarid roars on the insistent surf-guitar driven "Love Riot", which has the odd, rhythmic menace of a dance-fight, while the manic "Heavy Mood" sounds like the soundtrack to a packed capoeira class.
Those like myself who carry a torch for the sprite-like energy that characterized Tilly and the Wall’s early albums and have been slightly concerned about their gradual slide into slick production may find themselves doing the slow “damn shame about that” head shake re: Heavy Mood. When artists pitch a stylistic changeup, there’s no good way to respond without sounding awful. It’s no critic or fan’s place to say a band is wrong for altering its point of view.
Four years is a long time. After releasing three albums from 2004 to 2008, Tilly & the Wall took a bit of a break following 2008's O. During this time, three of the band members married and had children, while the other two moved to Los Angeles from the band's home base in Omaha, Nebraska. What has reemerged from this self-imposed hiatus is an album that is quite different from any of its predecessors, one that will no doubt surprise fans of the band's other albums.
After four years of no releases, Tilly And The Wall return with Heavy Mood on Conor Oberst’s Team Love. But it’s a misleading title: Tilly packs the usual whoa-ohs and choruses sung in unison, so at no point in the album is the mood heavy.In fact, unlike their Omaha-based peers (see: Saddle Creek gang), Tilly And The Wall are not known for their moodiness. Tap-dancing percussion (no exaggeration here) and cheeky electronics have always instilled a lighthearted feel to Tilly’s buoyant indie pop.
Well, isn’t this nice? Tilly And The Wall are still around, still trying to incite a “love riot” as the opening track to ‘Heavy Mood’ implies. The energy of the unrelenting guitar riffs spills over into the title-track but picks up some strong male vocals and spiky synths along the way. Oh, and handclaps. Lots of handclaps.