"Real Life," the centerpiece of the Brooklyn duo Tanlines' debut Mixed Emotions, has been on the internet for over two years. It came out in January of 2010 and was among the first formal material from the group beyond their two-song introduction New Flowers in 2008; in 2009, the group toured with The Strokes-less Julian Casablancas and almost exclusively released house-influenced remixes of songs like Memory Tapes' "Bicycle" and Solid Gold's "Apply." Tanlines was percolating, but hadn't shown what was in the pot. So for a mostly unknown band to go from such limited output, to realizing a song as stylistically developed and fun as "Real Life," was promisingly exciting.
Tanlines were somewhat unknown, but not unproven. Lead singer and guitarist Eric Emm played bass in the seminal math rock group Don Caballero, and produced material for drummer and producer Jesse Cohen's dance punk group Professor Murder. Their collaboration occasionally bears passing resemblance to their respective previous work, but on the whole, Mixed Emotions, and "Real Life" in particular, is stylistically committed to linking the lineages of house music and the encompassing English and American pan-African-inspired Worldbeat of the 1980s.
Importantly, however, Tanlines represents a divergence from other bands that grew up on the music of the 80s. Where groups like Vampire Weekend took Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, and David Byrne's legacy of westernized polyrhythmic afro-pop in the direction of conventional rock, Tanlines – along with contemporaries like Yeasayer and Cut Copy – have tied the quirky, jubilant synthesizers of that music to their club-going forbearers. "Yes Way" opens with a clapped clave beat and steel drum-imitating keys, before giving way to a driving drum line, while other songs, like the album's four-on-the-floor first cut, "Brothers," are more forthright in their club influence. As evidenced by their heavy remix output, Tanlines are producers first and foremost, and their greatest strengths lie in their ability to create sounds and beats that feel old and new all at once.
Also, Tanlines apparently have a knack for releasing the most summer-like songs in the dead of winter. They get off on putting complex rhythms over solid club bass drums — a dangerous cocktail for dance parties and a dangerous dance for cocktail parties. And since Mixed Emotions is rich with sunny, dance-able songs — "All Of Me" and "Cactus" are bangers in their own ways — it's safe to say it will rock many a barbeque in July.
By Charlie Kaplan, NPR Music
Mixed Emotions will be available to stream on demand from March 4 through March 20, 2012. The album will be released on March 20, 2012.