Tanlines Are Ready For The Bright Lights

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 19, 2012 3:00PM

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Tanlines Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm (photo via band's myspace page)
Four years ago, Tanlines were mixing up steel drum and bongo beats with pop-minded synth hooks for their New Flowers single, landing somewhere on the mark of DFA New York dance party sounds crossed with the Afrobeat rhythms that were making people lose their marbles for Vampire Weekend.

In the time that's passed between New Flowers and their recent debut full-length, Mixed Emotions, not much about Tanlines has changed—which is actually just fine. Multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen (of Professor Murder) along with guitarist and vocalist Eric Emm, do fine work blending the kinetic energy of Calypso and Afro-inspired music with the hyper, moodier synth music that's checkered all varieties of dance music since the '80s.

When Tanlines nail it—as they often do on Mixed Emotions—the result is a great big sound that makes it impossible to stand still. "All Of Me" practically begs to be remixed into a mega club cut, while "Not The Same" delays the danceable the payoff while it disarms the listener with a rawness of emotion not typically expected from dance floor music.

To put Tanlines on a scale, at their best, the riffs sound like the opening of an Amadou & Mariam track, full of texture, feeling and plenty of reasons to shake a hip. At their least ambitious, they can minimum cop to ripping off the good stuff; the the sunny, a-little-too-nostalgic "Lost Somewhere" is essentially The Beach Boys' "I Know There's An Answer" in a striped shirt and artful Brooklyn stubble.

It's not immediately clear where on the scale Tanlines will end up, or if they'll simply continue to slide indefinitely among sounds driven by drums, by synth or by terse, emotionally strained vocals. But when a band leaves us the choices like these--with all roads eventually leading to vigorous, danceable rock--some slip-sliding is likely the best choice.

Tanlines (with Rewards and The Field Auxiliary) play tonight, April 19 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western, 9:30 p.m., $10 21+