Album review: Tapes ‘n Tapes – Outside

Had Minneapolis indie rockers Tapes ‘n Tapes released Outside (Ibid Records) as the followup to their sparkling 2005 debut, The Loon, it would still be considered a letdown.  It would, however, be miles ahead of their actual followup, Walk It Off.  The songs are more fully formed, the production is cleaner and warmer, and guitarist/vocalist Josh Grier sounds more assured than ever before.  But while Outside has some nice things going for it, it still falls short in a few significant ways.

For one, the album starts off with a string of decent but ultimately unremarkable tracks.  “Badaboom” and “SWM” are a pair of understated tunes that showcase the band’s renewed focus on songwriting but leave no lasting impression.  The album finally starts to build some steam about halfway through, where the brief instrumental “Outro” and rocking “Freak Out” provide reminders of why Tapes ‘n Tapes became darlings of the internet music scene half a decade ago.

But before long the album becomes bogged down with songs that, while competently produced and performed, betray the group’s lack of musical vision.  Tapes ‘n Tapes seems unsure of what they want to be – a quirky, eclectic indie outfit or a band with something important to say.  They’ve already demonstrated that they can pull off the former, but the latter is where they tend to drift to far too often and it is not an area they should explore any further.

Outside gives me a little more hope for the future of Tapes ‘n Tapes than Walk It Off did, but it’s becoming increasingly likely that this group has already produced their defining artistic statement.

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