You had to feel sorry for Tapes 'n Tapes.
The 2006 debut of the Minneapolis quartet was a series of quick jabs to the ribs, aquiver with pure energy and joy. "The Loon," with its infectious opener "Just Drums," was the best kind of rock 'n' roll - simple, urgent, funny and chock full of juicy hooks big and small.
They were compared to Pavement and the Pixies, feted on the 'Net and hit the late night TV circuit. How to top such an eye-catching debut and keep that energy level at the red line?
The group chose producer Dave Fridmann, best known for his work with the Flaming Lips, to help with their all-important second album. His presence is palpable in the circumspect song structures, denser sound and a few fuzzy Lipsian strokes of psychedelia.
Overall, Tapes 'n Tapes sounds like a band very much aware that everyone is watching, and doesn't flub the moment. The band needed another collection of infectious songs to show it wasn't yet another one-and-done contender for our hearts in a time when great tunes seem hard to come by.
"Walk it off" isn't as light on its feet as "The Loon." It's full of complex ideas, introspective moments and more instrumental exploration. That doesn't mean it isn't as fun as their debut, however. It's an album made by players getting more confident in their skills and more willing to take chances.
Singer Josh Grier comes off like Stephen Malkmus' precocious nephew, all cocky good times and razor-sharp staccato from his guitar on "Hang them all" and "Headshock." And drummer Jeremy Hanson seems to benefit most from Fridmann's presence with an impressive array of textures and tempos like the slow country swing of "Say back something" or the five-speed fire of "Demon Apple."
CHECK THIS OUT: "Hang them all" is a jittery heart beat in your chest after an adrenaline rush. The song is full of pointed questions and dance-inducing guitar from Grier, but Matt Kretzmann's sinuous keys and Hanson's breakneck beat fight for attention street style.