Tapes 'n Tapes roll againby Chris Roberts, Minnesota Public Radio
Two years after it buzzed to the top of the indie rock world, the Minneapolis band Tapes 'n Tapes is back with a new CD called "Walk it Off."
The group launches an international tour tonight at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Despite high expectations for their new release, Tapes 'n Tapes members don't appear to be feeling any pressure.
St. Paul, Minn. — The release of "Walk it Off" may be long awaited by Tapes 'n Tapes fans, but for frontman Josh Grier and the other members, it's kind of old news.
"We've had it done since the middle of October, so the initial excitement isn't quite there any more," he said. "I'm excited for people to finally hear it you know, but at the same time it's like 'Man! I wish people could have heard it six months ago when we heard it.'"
As musicians and songwriters, Tapes 'n Tapes members are almost willfully un-self conscious.
That's partly why Grier hesitates to explain what his free form lyrics mean, or why he and the other musicians have trouble describing how their music evolved from their first album "The Loon," to "Walk it off." They feel like those are things for listeners to interpret.
Despite the specter of a sophomore jinx, Josh Grier and his bandmates appear almost serene about the release of their new CD. Grier says no one can apply more pressure than they put on themselves.
"Walk it off" was engineered by noted Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann, and Grier says the band is more than satisfied.
"I love the record," he said. "I think it's great. And so, it's like, there it is, there's no more pressure because I'm happy with it. Beyond that, there's absolutely zero that we can control as to how much other people are going to like the record, and I think we all knew that when we were making it."
Tapes 'n Tapes has made all the right moves since its skyward trajectory began, according to St. Paul Pioneer Press music critic Ross Raihala.
They quickly signed a record deal with a supportive label, London-based XL Recordings, and then started touring non-stop. Raihala said you can hear the results on "Walk it off."
"The most striking thing about the record is you can tell when you listen to it that they've spent two years on the road," he said. "The songs are a little bit more sophisticated but the band just plays together so strongly, that you can just tell that they've formed that bond."
Raihala thinks some of the songs on "Walk it off" may take a little longer to sink in than those on "The Loon," but that's part of its charm.
"It's a really rewarding record, and it's the kind of record that I think people will listen to it now and then listen to it in a couple months and sort of realize like 'Oh man, this is excellent,'" he said.
Tapes 'n Tapes benefited enormously from the almost universal praise music blogs heaped on "The Loon."
So far, "Walk it off" is getting mixed reviews in the blogosphere, although it seems there are more positives than negatives. Ross Raihala says in the case of Tapes 'n Tapes, some kind of backlash was to be expected.
"The blogs kind of have this attitude like 'Well, we created you and we can destroy you too,' which sounds kind of melodramatic but that's kind of how it is," he said. "So there's a lot of people gunning for them to fail because it makes for good blog reading."
Music for Robots is a Los Angeles-based blog that was highly instrumental in Tapes 'n Tapes meteoric rise two years ago. This time owner and writer Mark Willett didn't review "Walk it off," partly because by the time he was sent an MP3, it had already been written about extensively online.
In some respects, Willett said a band like Tapes 'n Tapes has outgrown his blog.
"We sort of function as a way to discover new music, and once you've already been discovered and you've already made that leap and you're on a label, I'm going to be a little less inclined to cover you," Willett said.
Willett said Tapes 'n Tapes has moved beyond the blogosphere. But with the music industry on the decline, and terrestrial radio pretty much rejecting indie bands, where the group goes from here isn't entirely clear.
"I don't know," Willett said. "I guess just tour their butts off. Get out there and tour, and that's sort of the best thing you can do."
The best thing, said Willett, besides getting one of your songs licensed by a commercial, a TV show, or a movie. And touring is something Tapes 'n Tapes has had in the works for a while, which is why bass player Eric Applewick chuckles when asked if the band is ready.
"Not much of a choice really," Applewick said. "We all knew it was coming. We've been like waiting for it for almost a year now. So, the answer is yes."
The first leg of what could be several months of touring begins tonight at First Avenue and winds up in Cologne, Germany, on June 10th.
- All Things Considered, 04/10/2008, 4:54 p.m.