! = recommended
* = all-ages
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A few fun facts about Minnesota: (1) it has more coastline than California or Hawaii; (2) the stapler was invented there; (3) it boasts the lutefisk capitol of the world (Madison) and (4) they haven't had a big indie scene since the heady days of Hüsker Dü and the Replacements. This might not be entirely the state's fault, I mean, maybe the collective underdog will has been channeled directly to the feisty Minnesota Twins, but whatever the case might be, Tapes 'n Tapes say bollocks to it all, full steam ahead. The Loon has a little bit of everything on it and gets a deserving re-release on XL Recordings.
Tapes 'n Tapes wander from straight-out garage rock to sinister neo-folk of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds and the Decemberists to sad bastard indie and back again. Within those genres, it is easy to sound clichéd, however Tapes 'n Tapes keep you guessing and seem to avoid that pitfall. The opening number, "Just Drums" begins with a dangerously Strokes-like sound and you worry that this will become a cautionary tale how not to be an indie band and your Casablancas-phobia begins to come out of remission. Thankfully they end up dragging the song from that dead end, and instead send it to the border of Ferdinandia with some clever shifts throughout the song. "The Iliad" loses any of that garage band pretense, instead it takes a page from Beck's Mutations or Sea Change. The band really opens itself up on the barnburner, "Insistor", a song that can only be described as Colin Meloy on speed or Nick Cave with ADHD. The driving drums back up pounding and incessant guitars that never let the tension dissipate that all lead to a Nick Cave-like whispered bridge where lead singer Josh Grier breathes Kelly, Kelly it's not your right to be cheating and fighting. "Insistor" falls in the same musical family as "Take Me Out" or "Common People", where the music itself is a drama that unfolds around you, captivating the listener by creating apprehension that doesn't let up.
"Manitoba" and "In Houston" slows the pace down from White Stripes-like tracks such as "Crazy Eights". "In Houston" has the quiet feel of the Clientele, but with a sinister bent that snarls it's way through the song, while "Manitoba" is a quiet and downright tender ballad with a taste of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah somewhere in there. With a nod to Modest Mouse, "10 Gallon Ascots" seems to harkens to the Lonesome Crowded West. However, Tapes 'n Tapes really excel when they can't really be compared and that's definitely the case on "Cowbell", a song that defies classification, one-part garage, one-part indie rock, one-part rock opera with tiny tastes of everything else as it races along. "Omaha" comes across as indie rock Radiohead, with a little less Doctor Who-inspired synth and more guitar. The Loon closes with the thunderous "Jakov's Suite" where Tapes 'n Tapes charge towards arena-rock anthems. Crunching guitars mesh seamlessly with the relentless drums as Josh wails When you move/when you move/you don't move away.
The Loon will likely make every hip kids Christmas list just like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! did last year. It marries a "rough on the edges" rock mentality with some great songs filled with hooks (whether they like it or not). Maybe this is just beginning of a Minnesota revival. Heck, we had a bloody Prairie Home Companion movie if that's not proof enough for Minnesota lovin' (am I the only one wondering about the hot Garrison Keilor-Lindsay Lohan sex? On second though - hurhrhrh.) Tapes 'n Tapes are just one of those bands that you really hope make it big, a band that pretty much anyone can rally around (in a good way) and The Loon will send them well along that path towards mega-super-Minnesotan stardom.