If I were to solely base my feelings for Mixed Emotions on its opening track, “Brothers,” I would be here to tell you that Tanlines has made the best indie pop album of 2012. On “Brothers,” swelling harmonies are laid carefully over Eric Emm’s wailing baritone vocals, creating an infectious pop song that goes beyond “catchy” and becomes unforgettable due to its infusion of subtle gravity. It packs so much promise that the album’s subsequent inconsistency is a bit disappointing, yet the record still has some memorable moments scattered throughout.
The point that immediately sets this record apart from your routine, indie pop/rock album is its defined sense of style and sound. All of the young indie bands that have made a splash over the years have been able to call a unique, distinct sound their own. A band that comes to mind is Vampire Weekend, who have of course been written about enough on the internet over the last few years. But, sure, I’ll talk about them a bit. For the most part, “Yes Way” is the only song that truly belongs in the center circle of the hypothetical Tanlines-Vampire Weekend venn diagram that I just made up. And while these two bands are basically different (less Afro-poppiness for Tanlines), there is the general vibe of summer pop music in this album, mixed with the feel of a band setting out to establish a definite, cohesive sound (something Vampire Weekend has done extremely well…almost to self-parodic proportions) that reminds one of VW.
After “Brothers,” there are a few more high notes on the record. “Rain Delay” is fun piece of 80s nostalgia with keyboard progressions that at times seem straight out of a 1985 sitcom theme song. The instrumentation is certainly dominant in the song, maybe at times glaring, yet Emm’s affecting crooning keeps the song in check, never allowing it to drift into silliness or superficiality. Along with the 80s themes, the prevalent harmonies on the record are another charming trademark. The hearkening to Beach Boys songs that some of these harmonies instill is only furthered by “Lost Somewhere,” whose chorus consists of the lyrics: “I know there’s an answer,” which immediately brings to mind the classic song “I Know There’s An Answer” from Pet Sounds. It makes you wonder if this was in fact a veiled tribute to a clear influence. On “Not the Same,” Tanlines give off a bit of a Tears for Fears vibe, which is overall a welcome bit of quirkiness.
While it’s far from perfect, and some of the songs do fall flat, there are no lazy misfires on Mixed Emotions. This duo’s evident passion for creating an indie pop album that has both depth and a flair for experimentation instills this album with a presence of spirit that makes it easy to listen to over and over again. Tanlines are onto something, building a pop sound that is exciting yet hasn’t been refined enough to totally shine for the duration of an album.