Tancred – “Out of the Garden”

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Bed Case” “Sell My Head”

Tancred’s last album, a self-titled album, was an excellent work of little numbers that was weirdly out-of-place. It was released through Topshelf Records, the label home to various emo and pop-punk bands like Into It. Over It., Defeater and A Great Big Pile of Leaves. But Tancred, nee Jess Abbott, really didn’t fit in that club. Even if her songs had a simplistic beauty to them, they were tough to categorize. And in the three years since that album, the scene has become overblown and overstayed. On her third album, Abbott finds herself moving even further away from any emo/pop-punk association, with a collection of fuzzed-up guitar tracks ripped out of the Breeders’ songbook.

There were guitar tunes on her previous albums, but this album’s riffy opener, “Bed Case,” is a stark contrast to “The Ring,” the beautiful, floating song that opened her last album. There is less restraint on “Out of the Garden,” and a lot more volume and energy. The energy isn’t maintained throughout, but more often than not there is enough oomph to keep listener riding down the nostalgia train. Abbott, alongside Terrence Vitali and Kevin Medina, create a world that falls somewhere in the 90’s boom between pop-punk and shoegaze, often swaying one way or the other. “Sell My Head” seems distinctly punk, while “Control Me” falls closer to shoegaze.

Abbott’s lyrics often center around relationships, as well as individualism, something she came into working in a bad section of Minneapolis. On “Sell My Head,” she sings, “I drank you up like wine / Until my teeth were black and white.” She muses on love in regards to self-expression all across the record. “This is how we learned to be happy / This is how we learned the hard way,” on “Control Me.” “Tie me up with ropes made of you,” she sings on “Poise,” and “You look like California / Take me there, take me there / You put me in a coma / But I don’t scare” on “Bed Case.”

90’s revivalists will have a lot to piece through on this album. All members come across well on the album, and while the fuzz-induced boom isn’t quite enough to sustain across the whole album, there’s enough great tracks here to certainly hold up. Tancred has always seemed fitful to place themselves in any genre, and this album is a delightful mix of everything in between.

Watch the video for their excellent single, “Bed Case” below (although not if you have epilepsy):

-By Andrew McNally

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Some Quick Reviews – “Other Albums”

Sometimes, I’ll listen to a new release and definitely feel ways about it, but I just can’t quite put them into words. So here’s some quick blast reviews because there’s been a number lately that have been worthy of praise but that I haven’t been able to come up with reviews of:

Swearin’ – “Surfing Strange” – B+:  It’s tough to call this album ‘punk,’ even in an era where the definition of the word differs person to person. It’s pretty, often soft and incredibly different from song to song. What it is, really, is great songwriting. The Crutchfield sisters (Allison, in this band, and Katie, the sole member of Waxahatachee) have yet to put out a remotely subpar album between them. Swearin’ is one of the best bands around today, so take note.

Haim – “Days Are Gone” – B+: As a whole, the album seems really repetitive. Every song sounds pretty similar. But when you listen to it track-by-track, you’ll realize that each song has a lot of time and effort on it, and that this trio of sisters are very talented songwriters and musicians. It almost sounds like music your parents like – and it probably is. But it’s catchy and original, give them your time.

The Naked and Famous – “In Rolling Waves” – B-:  “In Rolling Waves” isn’t a unique album, and it doesn’t try to be. It’s just a collection of largely good, dance songs. The album isn’t very memorable, but it’s easy to enjoy. “Hearts Like Ours” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

CHVRCHES – “The Bones Of What You Believe” – A-:  Much in the vain of the Naked and Famous, every song on this album is synth-driven and it all kind of sounds the same, but it’s an incredibly energetic album for something so catchy. Very great debut.

Tancred – “Tancred” – B-:  “Tancred” is a pretty great blending of emo, punk and folk influences. Everything sounds great on the album – it’s just all over a little too soon.

Best Coast – “Fade Away” – B: Being someone that’s not a big fan of the band, and given that it’s an EP, I couldn’t accurately say why I really enjoyed this release. But it’s just an entertaining listen, a good step for the band. Their songwriting has improved consistently, and they’re feeling comfortable as a weird, garage-rock/dream-pop mix.

Parquet Courts – “Tally All the Things That You Broke” – B+: This follow-up EP to their debut (which also came out this year – one of the best albums of the year) slows things down a bit and gets more detective. Even though it’s unexpected, it all works. Parquet Courts, a throwback garage band out of NYC, are a band I consider to be one of the best in American music today. This EP only bolsters that.

Chumped – “Chumped” – A-: It’s tough to stand out in pop-punk, but Chumped’s energetic and smart music make for a release much better than most of the schlock in the genre. It’s another great debut in an already pretty full year. Also, they’re great people. That always helps.

AFI – “Burials” – B-: I started writing a review for “Burials” the day it came out. It’s a few weeks later, sorry guys. What I had said so far was that AFI, for the first time in their career, sound like they have no barriers to conquer. So they’ve combined their 90’s hardcore punk with their ’00’s emo into what’s a largely entertaining album. It’s arena-rock ambitions are on an awful level similar to Muse and the Killers, but the band doesn’t always go there. When they’re just being themselves, it feels comfortable and zeitgeist-less, and it feels right. They stray away from that comfort zone too frequently, but it’s got all the gloom you expect from an AFI album, with a renewed energy.