The Brooklyn duo Tanlines are Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm, who dig deeply into the 80s new wave.
Over the last decade, Brooklyn’s music scene built a reputation for cultivating cool, experimental art-rock, personified by bands like TV On The Radio and Dirty Projectors. Often producing music that could be termed “difficult” by the masses, they helped set a tone that Brooklyn was a haven for musical artists looking to make something challenging yet still critically acclaimed enough to receive positive reviews on sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum.
But as the second decade of the new millennium rolls out, lush synthesizers and perky electronic dance beats are quietly replacing that spirit of abstract experimentalism. Due in no small part to James Murphy and his band, LCD Soundsystem, aggressively dosing their brainy alt-rock with dance music aesthetics, his label DFA has gone on to become the new sound of New York nightlife. Culminating in LCD Soundsystem’s sold-out farewell shows at Madison Square Garden (documented in the movie Shut Up And Play The Hits), Brooklyn is now home to a new set of emerging acts like Bear In Heaven and Rewards that owe more to Depeche Mode than Sonic Youth.
Among those bands is the hotly tipped duo Tanlines, who ended a cross-country tour in support of their bouncy new album, Mixed Emotions, with their first L.A. show at the Echo. With fellow synthesized Brooklynites Rewards in tow, the show was a sell-out, with anxious fans milling out front in hopes of snagging a last-minute ticket.
Inside, Rewards took the stage to a packed house, including Har Mar Superstar hanging out in front of the stage. Fronted by Aaron Pfenning, formerly of the band Chairlift (you might remember their song “Bruises”), the band’s lush and sexy ‘80s tracks suffered at the hands of an unfortunate live mix. The drum machine beats and programmed tracks all but drowned out Pfenning’s foggy vocals and the live guitar. The set almost came together for the song “Two Cardinals,” (which on mp3 sounds like a dreamy prom scene soundtrack for a John Hughes movie), but any nuances were lost in the bombastic mix. Sadly, Solange Knowles, who sings on their latest single, “Equal Dreams,” was nowhere to be seen. Not that I expected her or anything, but a guy can always wish.
For Tanlines, the show was a showcase of well-honed pop songs and a genuine enthusiasm for the music. The yin-yang chemistry between the more stoic and guitar-playing Eric Emm and the chatty nervous energy of keyboardist and drummer Jesse Cohen made for an engaging onstage dynamic. Launching quickly into “Brothers,” they ran through their new album with the precision of a band that’s spent a lot of time playing together. The breezy, island-hopping feel of songs like “Real Life” and “All Of Me” percolate with the upbeat euphoria of classic Erasure singles mixed with the pop sophistication of Miike Snow.
Turning the Echo into a giddy dance party is no easy feat, and Tanlines pulled it off with good vibes to spare, leaving Cohan gratuitously thanking L.A. for the rapturous response. “I would move here in a heartbeat,” he said without a touch of irony towards the end of the show.
Cohen was also eager to announce the band’s booking for this year’s FYF Fest before the set ended abruptly, the lack of an encore leaving the dance-crazy crowd wanting more.
Paul Tollett and the good people of Goldenvoice would do well to go ahead and add Tanlines to the shortlist of acts that need to play at Coachella 2013. In pen, not pencil.