“Matrimony rock.” Hmmm. As a music critic, I’m down with all sorts of genre hybridizing (i.e. chamber-pop, glam-pop, jazz-rock, etc.). It’s part of our job to make up those descriptors to give music some sort of mass understanding, so I’ve seen a lot of bogus combinations, but the first time I came across the term “matrimony rock” was on the Long Tangles’ Myspace page. It seems to me that the word “matrimony” would contain certain connotations that act against the word “rock”, thus neutralizing the whole ordeal. The same way your best friend becomes a kitschy version of his former badass self after taking the plunge, the Long Tangles sound soft and comfortable on their debut LP, Silver City.
The central elements to this band are the drums, synthesizer, and the nice vocals of Courtney Hans, which outline all nine songs on the album. Given that this duo is a two-piece and spent some time on the road last summer, it’s probably safe to assume that the tunes on Silver City were road tested and then pretty much left unchanged when it came time to record. But the things that musicians rely on during performance — such as atmosphere, audience, and sheer volume of sound — don’t necessarily translate onto record so great. It’s an aesthetic choice on the band’s part to spice things up for the record, or leave it in its true form. Unfortunately for the Long Tangles, their lack of studio flourishes leaves much of their would-be catchy material sounding flat.
“Hey, Silver City” is a bright album opener of pretty piano pop and while it has certain redeemable qualities, such as the staccato chord plunks at the end of each bar (which you just don’t hear enough of), it all sounds conveniently mechanic. The same sentiment runs through “100 Years Ago”, “Creases & Folds”, and “Ask Her”, which also have some questionable lyrical choices. For example: “You’ve gotta know that it’s something you’re built to do/ a bomb’s not a bomb ‘til it goes off like it’s built to do,” from “100 Years Ago”, and “You won’t even answer/ so maybe you should ask her/ if it is okay to give me a call,” from “Ask Her” don’t really wiggle and shake with deep emotional sustenance. It doesn’t matter how good you can sing, if you don’t feel the lyrics, the audience won’t buy it.
If the Long Tangles struggle to remain interesting on the indie rock side of things, they’ve at least got the “matrimony rock” down. The standout tracks on Silver City give themselves more to the idea of “matrimony rock” — whatever that would be (I think of UK electro-pop group, the XX). There’s tension there, and when the Long Tangles are creating that tension is when the listener tunes in. “Dry Room” contains the first bit of songwriting that sounds organic and natural. “Ode to the Wrecking Ball” and “Falling” both relish in a swath of keyboard swells and breaks, while lead singer Hans elocutes about relationship failures and successes. Real stuff.
The Long Tangles have a lot going for them. They’ve got catchy material, they sound good live, and at the very least, they have a wave of hype after a very successful first year as a band. The fact that they have pumped out an EP, Blueprints & Maps, pulled off a brief summer tour, and managed to record and release their debut LP all within the span of a single year is amazing. Having formed in January 2010 from other disbanded groups, that’s a lot of progress for a short amount of time, all of culminating the release of the delightfully poppy, yet reserved, Silver City.