I found my first listen to the Tapes 'n Tapes LP "Outside" to be a nice experience but nothing really stood out or won me over. Over the next few days a track would pop up on shuffle when I was walking around town and every time I would think, "this is good...who is this?" Sure enough, Tapes 'n Tapes. I found myself oddly pulled back to the album for more plays time and time again. Wanting to support a self released record I purchased the vinyl and took it for a "proper spin". The record really shined on wax. Now I consider "Outside" to be one of the better listens of 2011. I can't convince you to like a record or would ever want to. My goal is to convince you to give "Outside" another spin or if you avoided it, a first listen. What happens from there is up to your own taste, but here are a few reasons why you should listen to "Outside".
The genre of indie rock has changed in two ways. First, it's now an aesthetic rather than something with a definition. Indie meant independent, no label support (now there are indie labels and so on). Secondly, the music that is "now" or "cool" focuses on everything that indie rock wasn't in the 90's or early 2000's. For a band to play the style of original indie music today is a death sentence. You have to throw on reverb...be more experimental, haze, fuzz, chill, gaze the shit out of everything (whatever that means). The greatest indie rock songs are straightforward but slightly crooked. Looking at my favorites: Pavement's "Shady Lane", Of Montreal's "Don't Ask Me To Explain, Pixies "Debaser", or Neutral Milk Hotels' "Two Headed Boy"; all of the best indie rock songs are voices in their raw form, emoting in the only way they know how. Indie rock was great because even when it was bad it was at least honest. Indie rock has been taken over by a uniting aesthetic that feels extremely forced.
I'm not calling "Outside" an indie rock classic, but it fits both parts of what indie rock was intended to be: it's a self release and the songs are sincere. The vocals on this record are extremely refreshing. They're upfront, no effects. The end result is the listener makes a connection with an actual person who has something to say. The melodies are not flashy, they do their job. Simple groves are hard to come by and Tapes 'n Tapes craft these seemingly simple songs that work so much better than 90% of new music because each instrument is working to the greater goal of the track rather than to get immediate attention from one loud standout section. The best example of the opposite is Sleigh Bells. Not to say what they do is good or bad, but the loudness is hard to ignore, you either love it or you hate it. That's the trend, wipe out the middle ground so opinion can be formed quickly. "Outside" isn't flashy and you really have to let it grow or it doesn't stand a chance.
I feel really bad for Tapes 'n Tapes. Most of the reviews I read concerning "Outside" are much more concerned with context than the actual sound. How does this compare to the first two records? Why aren't they a bigger name by now? They had it all and never delivered on their immediate success. Why did they drop the major label? And so on. I could care less about any of this. I really enjoyed the first record, was so so on the second LP, and I'm currently having a lot of fun with "Outside". The bloggers in power have reconditioned the taste of their readers away from simple indie rock and this leaves bands like Tapes 'n Tapes, The Henry Clay People, Pomegranates, and other straightforward indie rock bands who honestly write what they like to play out in the cold. Where do they fit in with the world of Salem, James Blake, lo-fi, and everything that's as far away from rock as possible? "Outside" is a fun, straightforward indie rock album that would have made millions drool in the early 2000's. The times have changed and people want them to adapt. I say screw that, bands should write the music they would like to hear when picking up a record for themselves. I love indie rock and "Outside" delivers what I'm looking for in a rock record. It's as simple as that.