Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tilly and the Wall: O (4.5/5)

Year: 2008
Genre: Indie Twee Pop(?)
Label: Team Love
TRT: 32:33

Tilly and the Wall is a rather unique band, in that their percussion section is mostly filled by a tap dancer instead of the usual drum kit. Initially, I thought that was a sort of neat gimmick, but a gimmick none-the-less. The fact that they were on Conor Obersts “Team Love” label didn’t help any either. As much as I’m a fan of Bright Eyes, “Team Love” has always struck me as the label that signs the bands the elder Oberst deemed “not good enough” for Saddle Creek, whether or not that’s actually the case. And since Conor was in a band with a couple of the members of T&tW back in the day, I had a sneaking suspicion that that was more why they were signed than the merit of the band itself.

Back in 2004, that may have been the case. Wild Like Children, while containing a few good tracks, is mostly a mediocre album, with little more going for it than the previously mentioned gimmick. But since then, that seems to have changed. I didn’t make any special effort to check out 2006’s Bottoms of Barrels, and the band had mostly slipped from my radar until sometime in 2009, when more on a whim than anything else, I decided to give O a listen.

What I heard there really took me by surprise. Instead of being hit-or-miss, sometimes ho-hum sometimes flashy, but always just a little out of their element, they were, to put it bluntly, kicking ass and taking names.

The music is extremely well written, and the tap dancing has been almost flawlessly integrated into their sound, transcending from being a novelty to hook people, to being essential to their sound. The lyrics are poignant and clever, without ever crossing into pretentious or arrogant. O exudes confidence and energy. But I think my favorite part, the part that really holds everything together, is the vocals. Whether brash and confrontational ( Pot Kettle Black, Too Excited) or subdued and contemplative (I Found You, Tall Tall Glass), the sincerity is unmistakable, and the delivery is flawless, holding everything together in exactly the right way.

This album is infectious, fun, and as I’ve already said…it just plain kicks ass.

01 Tall Tall Glass
02 Pot Kettle Black
03 Cacophony
04 I Found You
05 Alligator Skin
06 Chandelier Lake
07 Dust Me Off
08 Falling Without Knowing
09 Poor Man's Ice Cream
10 Bloodflower
11 Too Excited

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