Tapes 'n Tapes: The Loon

Every little cog of this great piece of indie-rock machinery is, of course, some PR person's wet dream.

Tapes 'n Tapes

The Loon

Label: XL Recordings
US Release Date: 2006-07-25
UK Release Date: 2006-07-24

In what I do when I'm not writing music reviews, we have a term for this: a "soft launch". It's when a small company releases a product onto the market without fanfare, to test the waters, so that they're more certain of a positive response before they sink a lot of expenditures into marketing. You don't think of this concept of the "soft launch" for music; it kind of goes against our idealistic (maybe overly idealistic) conception of music as art-form. But Tapes 'n Tapes' eminently listenable debut The Loon may be the closest we get to this idea.

Originally released last year and distributed by the band themselves, the disc hums with a combination of classic indie sounds and just enough dilettantism that's almost universally likeable. Sure enough, that inimitable arbiter of hype, the blog bandwagon, jumped all over the group, and they've scored a re-release through XL Recordings. The group doesn't have the star-power of Montreal's Wolf Parade, but the music will likely appeal to the same folk, though it's a little simpler, more melodic and accessible.

Let's get this gripe out the way early: every little cog of this great piece of indie-rock machinery is, of course, some PR person's wet dream: the home-made, DIY quality; the easily nameable indie-god references; the inscrutable words. And it's easy to count out the Minnesotan group's sound-likes (Pixies, Pavement) -- an impressive roster. I mean sure, I perked up the first time I heard the bit with "Harvard Square" in it, but on sober reflection, what does "I called your name like Harvard Square holds all inane" even mean? The appeal almost seems manufactured. And all the place names -- it's like they're saying, 'This is an Indie Rock Song' -- with its references to Oslo! Or Manitoba! And there's a song called "The Iliad" (not about the Iliad, as far as I can tell)! Not to burst the bubble, but sorry, until you've said "Reykjavik" in a song (like Lazy Susan) you're no indie god. But of course the key there is 'almost' manufactured. Just when you feel singer Josh Grier's smarminess grate, he warbles some sweet, cracked melody and there's no resisting.

The album's best songs refuse to let you dismiss them as standard indie rock fare. Among many melodies that stand the test of repetition, three hit best-of list heights: "Insistor", "Manitoba" and "Omaha". "Insistor"'s the one most blog-posted, with its countrified guitars, up-beat drums (one step removed from dance-rock) and surging chorus. The other two more ballad-based, "Manitoba" balling up from the disc's most gorgeous melody into a scuzzy bit of lo-fi campfire singalong; and "Omaha", all syncopated prettiness.

But as with anything built up off such disparate parts, there's some hit, some miss. "Crazy Eights" is a bit straight blues for too long to be anything but a passing enjoyment, and "In Houston" is a bit too in love with its own swirling harmonics to be completely tight as a song. The closer, "Jakov's Suite", really sounds like Green Day and it's an unexpected end to the disc.

But in the end, The Loon impresses despite its reputation; despite its occasional snark ("I've been a better lover with your mother", or the way Grier lisps when he pronounces the word "lisper"). 'Impresses' is almost the wrong, because The Loon is really likeable: here's a solid, solid debut with enough tunes to last the summer, at least.

Tapes 'n Tapes -- Insistor






Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".


Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.


Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.


Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.


On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.


Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.