Welcome to the next round of ATTIWLTMOWOS roulette! For non-regular readers of the blog, from time to time I pick albums to review just based on the cover and with no prior knowledge of the band before; after reviewing another act in this manner, I have decided to dive straight into another one before I head back to my Italian obligations (long story). The album in question is for the wonderfully titled Tall Tales & the Silver Lining with the not quite as long titled album 'Tightropes'. From reading up on their various pages I can see that they are from Los Angeles in America, this is their third album and their number totals seven members. Another interesting fact is their influences, check them out - Smokey Robinson, Burt Bacharach, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. This should tell you a bit about their sound, but that is judging before you have heard the music. The main reason I picked the cover is the perceived high of the man and the loneliness of his expression, his back to the direction of the sun and the non-connection toward the audience. It is a strong image, it has certainly made me interested and now it is time to see what the deal is here....
"Something to Believe In" starts this album, which starts with synths, strumming guitars and then the sun seems to start shinning. This tune is just a joy to start this song, however whilst I can see the influences that the band have took from their musical heroes, I am hearing some other bands which are more current shall we say - bands such as Fanfarlo, Kurt Ville and The War on Drugs all come to mine straight away to this listener. The second track on this album is called "Afraid to Love Again" and it is a brilliant song, the lyrical self-doubt, the slow solo, the pounding drums which sound the same as from "Something to Believe In" and the warmth to the music. But there is a familiarity to the song before you have even heard it, it shares that sound which is the current vogue of the bands that I have stated above - this is not a bad thing at all, but it does mean that the listener is not exploring new ground at this point (no matter how good it sounds). After this we have "Let It Go", it starts off with a gentle guitar and it seems to be heading in a new direction....but then that familiar drum beat comes in and I am seriously having a sense of déjà vu washes over me. No matter what else is going on, it is all consuming and it is to the determinant of the album at this point, this sound needed gentle drums not to have that same pace of beat as it could have been something more beautiful.
"Born Alive" keep up the same drum beat for the most part - it does change during the chill out solo, which was nice - so let’s focus on the rest of the number. The lyrics are hopeful and full of the beauty of love, the singing is really charming and the rest of the band sound great as well. Title track "Tightropes" finally changes the drum beat - I am sorry guys, but I did cheer with joy at this point; it makes such a difference to the album to have some variety. I love this song with a passion, it is about wanting to change from the position that is not to the person's advantage when they are faced with a failing love. It is what this album has been crying out for, something that shows the passion and hurt that this band can deliver - but in a different manner, it is really refreshing. Then we come to the next song which is called "Harder For You", I will get drum watch out of the way first - it is back to normal, but with a slight disco flare underneath the pounding (a bit like a vicar with suspenders). It is different number when the singe sounds as if he is apologising for something that he has done, as if he is going to make a bigger effort for his significant other and that is very bold indeed. The song itself does not quiet sound right though, I really wish I could avoid it this time but I cannot; the drums ruin this number, it should have been a slow number and not something that also be used in a club.
"Unknown Forces" is the seventh song on this album and it has a country taint, with the piano being the central instrument on show here, a little bit of slide guitar and the drums do actually match the tune this time (hooray). The song about questioning the circumstance on the world is really fragile and draws the listener, I think this is probably their best suit if I am honest; it seems to be what they play strongest on. "Wade Through The Storm" feels like it has been taken out of context - for the most part it sounds like it should be a slow mournful number, the pedal guitar and sombre lyrics seem to point in that direction, but everything else about seems to want to make it into something else - it is a curious mix of styles that clash on this number, it just washes from side to side in my mind and I am still at a loss with it. I both love and hate it in equal measure, so I expect it to be my song of the album in the next year or so; but for now I will just put it to the side as we head toward the penultimate song "Waves". Once more the sense that we have been here before surrounds me (I am really trying not to use the obvious line there, I feel sort of proud of that), it comes across as a slowed down version of "Something to Believe In" and this is not a bad thing to be honest. The solo towards the end of the number is really good by the way, possible the best on the album. However, the curtain falls on "Losing It" which begins with a sombre piano and the tale of departures and farewells towards friendship and the way you have to hold on at times. It is another example of what this band can do and how good it can sound with a little variation.
So, I think it is obvious that there is some things that I would say about this album - first is that sometimes less is more, when there is variation on this record it sounds like the band would be world beaters. There is a lot of potential to this group and they sound like competent musicians, but all too often on this album they have added stuff when it is not needed or they have kept something constant through the album when a slight change would have completely reinvented the tone of the record. Whilst by fault or design, it is too similar to other acts out there already and it is not giving anything different, which is a shame as it started off so promising. It is by no means of the imagination a bad record and I am sure there are times when some of these sounds will soar, but all together they sound too similar in pattern for it to be anything other than average.
5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
Top track - Afraid to Love Again
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Tall Tales & the Silver Lining website here
You can also follow their activities on Facebook here
You can stream the album on Spotify here
For our Deezer users, here is a link for you people