Solid Synth-Pop on Sophomore Effort from Tanlines

30 Jun

Tanlines is a Brooklyn-based, synth-pop duo featuring Eric Emm on guitars and lead vocals and Jesse Cohen on percussion. The band made its debut on the indie scene in 2012 with an album called Mixed Emotions. It was hailed by critics as blending pure pop sensibilities with danceable beats and other trappings that often sound like they’re right out of the 80s.

Now comes Tanlines’ follow-up effort, Highlights. It’s an apropos title because while the band hasn’t broken any new ground with Highlights, the album features a number of very good radio-friendly synth-pop songs that could stand as strong singles for the duo.

Produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, the band merges New Wave synth-pop arrangements underscored by a variety of rhythm tracks with acoustic guitar strumming or electric guitar riffs and Emm’s silky smooth vocals. It’s a proven formula that simply put, works — time and again on the new album (even if many of the online music publications weren’t overly impressed).

Getting a handle on the best tracks requires a few listens, perhaps because they cuts flow together so well. But after two or three times through, the many solid songs stand out.

The album begins in banging fashion with “Pieces,” a bouncy, light and happy synth-pop composition with tremendous hooks. Full of finger snaps and handclaps, the call-and-response vocals will have you singing along before you know it. It’s definitely the best track on the album.

“Slipping Away” is a shimmery, surfy synth-pop hit — the first single from the album. Emm’s ringing guitar is prominent, along with a twitching rhythm that sounds a bit like rubbing corduroy pants together.

The band’s newest music video, “Palace,” is a soft and breezy affair, with a sophisticated club beat supporting a glittery, soft-focus pop melody straight out of the 1980s.

Track 5, “Invisible Ways,” is dreamy and sentimental. It boasts a rich, rolling Roy Orbison-like acoustic guitar with vocals to match. A gushing chorus that starts in the second verse adds to the melancholy feeling.

Track 8 is “Thinking,” another pleasant and playful tune with repetitive synth tones set off against the light tripping beat and added synth and guitar flourishes.

Finally, the second-to-last track, “If You Stay,” is a great little pop tune, with a simple backbeat and musical layers that feature accomplished bass play, acoustic guitar, and a variety of synth sounds.

Overall, it’s a very satisfying collection of songs that offers hours of listing pleasure for those who enjoy synth-pop.

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