Tapes ‘n Tapes, Outside
Equal parts successes and stumbles
Tapes 'n Tapes so perfectly captured the indiepop zeitgeist of the mid '00s that when they faded, it was as if they'd just been a media-created fever dream. Outside is an important test to see if they can survive outside of the cocoon of hype that surrounded their first two albums. It begins well: "Badaboom" is a terrific romp, powerful and propulsive but with a playful note that recalls the band's best work. Longer exercises are rewardingly fresh — like the woozy, mournful "On and On" and "Nightfall," the stabbing horns of which recall the Paisley Underground. Even the strangest moments have a loopy charm: "Freak Out" is a supremely catchy number that only falters during its misguided guitar solo.
Unfortunately, for every success, there's a stumble. Some tracks are half-formed — more ideas than songs — and Josh Grier's vocals can overpower the music. The band can't escape its reputation as a composite of its influences, either: "The Saddest of All Keys" is essentially an Elephant 6 workout, and "People You Know" could pass for a Modest Mouse outtake. Outside is half a great album, but its best moments offer ample evidence as to why anyone was so excited about them in the first place.