Tanlines Across America: The Hottest Thing This Summer

Photos by Carl Pocket, courtesy of the Echo

One day before releasing their second album, “Highlights,” Tanlines brought their U.S. summer tour to an overflowing crowd at the Echoplex in Los Angeles—their favorite city in which to play music, “and we can’t say that at every show,” praised percussionist/keyboardist Jesse Cohen at the May 18th show.

Cohen and vocalist/guitarist Eric Emm formed the electronic indie rock group in 2008, but this show was only the third time they’ve played with a full band. “We decided two main things about this album [Highlights] before we started it,” Cohen told Rolling Stone.  “We wanted to try to work outside of our studio in Brooklyn, outside of just looking at a computer, and we wanted to try to incorporate more of our live setup.”

In fact, some songs made their live debut, like “Green Grass” from “Mixed Emotions,” the band’s 2012 freshman album that earned them stage time last year at FYF, Red Bull Sound Select, and First City Festival, as well as gigs alongside alternative favorites like Vampire Weekend, The xx and Yeasayer.

Photo credit Carl Pocket, courtesy of the Echo

Photo credit Carl Pocket, courtesy of the Echo

Collectively donning skinny slacks, an old white tee, and a man-bun, the crew undoubtedly washed up from the east side –though perhaps unwashed.  Indeed, Jessie confirmed they’d worked on “Highlights” with producer Patrick Ford up the street in Atwater Village, when they weren’t collaborating with Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor back home in NYC.  From coast to coast, the band’s hipster cred is strong, but devoid of affectation.  In a fog of pinks, blues and yellows came tropical synth grounded in a haunting soulfulness that perpetually surprises and satisfies.

Weaving emotional honesty into the fabric of a successful pop song, Emm sang, “I fall to pieces when we’re apart,” which had everyone joining in on the last drawn-out note, “away,” in spite of themselves.  “Pieces” showcases Emm’s voice as nearly unbridled as it builds, echoing the tension between Cohen’s precise drums, clicks and rattles and the band’s graceful melodies.

The fact is, Tanlines is more perfectly honest through its opposing pairs. “The thing about our music is it’s a balance between light and dark, happy and sad,” said Emm.  “The music will be happy, but there’ll be a sort of melancholic aspect to the vocal.”

The bright steel-y beats paired with moody 80s melodies in “Slipping Away,” which had the house shaking with energy, also alluded to a pathetically fading romance.

A leftover piece of confetti floated off of the rafters above us, “I feel like I just got up here,” said Cohen as he paused to re-tighten one of his symbols, “That must mean I’m having fun.”  He looked out over the crowd, taking it all in.

Rounding out the emotional range of the new album came the more leisurely “Two Thousand Miles,” and “Invisible Ways,” which conjure energy moving through molasses, pronounced by Emm’s thick, melting vocals.  Though their rhythms were impeccably coordinated, each man on stage seemed to be having his own private sensory experience, a quiet confidence gained with maturity.

“I’d call Highlights the album where things started making more sense,” said Emm, reflecting on the band’s transition from the post-youth existentialism in “Mixed Emotions” to a more revealing self-exploration and acceptance.  And the Echoplex, whose speakers are often blown out with muffled moans, had never sounded so sophisticated.

Getting to know Tanlines involves binge-playing a series of would-be singles, so once you’ve stopped obsessing over “All of Me,” which earned a slot on Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Songs of 2012, and this year’s “Pieces,” we suggest going for:
1. Brothers
2. Green Grass
3. Not the Same
4. Slipping Away
5. Real Life

Their new websiteis a mock Netflix where you can purchase their new album, buy tickets to their tour, AND enjoy descriptions of their hits as bromantic movie summaries, such as: “Pieces: When bae is away, all hell breaks loose in the dramedy of love,” leaving absolutely nothing to be desired.

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