A peppy, optimistic set, but lacking original thought and ultimately a bit dated.
Natalie Hardwick 2012-05-09
Male bonding and pop are comfortable bed partners. A complex bond between musical brothers that facilitates prime artistic flow, a sacred bond concealed from the outside world – and thankfully so. Heck, there’s even a band named after the notion. But while Brooklyn duo Tanlines worship at the altar of bromance, this manifests on Mixed Emotions as a healthy peppering of fey lyrical yearning.
The love affair began in 2008 when drummer and bassist Jesse Cohen ran into guitarist and vocalist Eric Emm in Brothers recording studio, a venue which lends its name to the opening track of this debut. They clicked and decided to write a song after finding common inspirations, which included Stock, Aitken and Waterman (shudder). They then spent a good three years releasing EPs, compilations, remixes and hammering the tour trail.
On this end-product LP, their channelling of the terrifyingly tight pop that was SAW's stock in trade is negligible. But therein rests the whole essence of Mixed Emotions: it’s sprinkled with so many disparate influences, electronic effects and rhythmic lurches that it never really gels. It’s a synth-pop album alright, but it dabbles with African sounds, Balearic beats and power balladry (closer Nonesuch was surely inspired by 80s US soap operas) in a way that sounds dated and watery.
There are some real high notes however. Brothers is an optimistic opener, wave sounds crashing before some clappy disco rhythms and the nasally-challenged Emm tells the story of sparring, but loving, pals. The opening keys of Not the Same are unashamedly 90s, and pave the way for an altogether meatier track layered with more gothic notes.
It’s difficult to shovel criticism on these guys. They’re hardworking and humble – their Twitter account is more dopey quips than self-advancement – and their music is optimistic and driving. But the scattered approach showcased on this set needs polish and original thought to develop.