Tapes ‘n Tapes, ‘Walk It Off’ (XL)
In the same way that Lily Allen’s career is inextricably tied to her MySpace page, and OK Go’s profile was boosted by YouTube, Minneapolis quartet Tapes ‘n Tapes owe much of their success to MP3 blog aggregators Elbo.ws and the Hype Machine, sites that documented their buzz in real time by giving greater exposure to the online music community’s rapidly expanding long tail. Inevitably, the group were tagged with the semiderisive “blog band” label, and became the face of indie-rock populism: overhyped, unchallenging, and constantly, inexplicably compared to indie legends like Pavement and the Pixies.
The band have clearly set out to change that impression. The tunes on their second album are tighter, the lyrics smarter, and the performances far more dynamic and aggressive, thanks in large part to the studio work of Flaming Lips/Sleater-Kinney producer Dave Fridmann. While most of their first record lingered in a strummy haze, they can now pull off jittery punk (“Hang Them All”) and understated, graceful melancholy (the Bowie-esque ballad “Time of Songs”).
Still, the band remains somewhat generic, mainly due to Josh Grier’s timid, charisma-free vocals. There are pleasures to be found on Walk It Off, and in the context of Tapes ‘n Tapes’ growth as songwriters, the record is a modest breakthrough. But compared with the best of their more vibrant, creative peers, it’s just pretty good for a blog band.