In recent months Tanlines have been seen a lot of places. They snagged on a slew of song/album/band-of-the-weeks across the independent music blogosphere, landed a spot in the pages of The New York Times and even grazed the Billboard album charts. Since last month’s release of their second album Mixed Emotions there’s a high probability they’ve crossed your path.
Though their sound is nothing unique, a faultless mixture of international beats and pop choruses is what makes Tanlines so charming. Their vibe deviates between easy listening melodies and tropical soundscapes. It’s simple lyrics and guitar topped off with the kind of eclectic, organic percussion you can only expect from talented producers. Mixed Emotions is calm and collective while simultaneously energetic and colorful—and that’s one way to describe last night’s show at the Doug Fir.
With a few greater known acts playing around town, and the fact that it was a Wednesday, the Brooklyn duo was less than enthused to play their sister-city of Portland. Eric Emm (lead vocalist/guitarist) sulked in the shadows between songs while Jesse Cohen (percussion/keyboards) struggled to stir up small talk with the crowd. While their singles “Brothers”, “Real Life” and “All of Me” had a few bodies enthusiastically bobbing throughout the crowd, the rest stoically smiled onward. The highpoint of their set was the entrancing outbreak jam sessions between Emm’s guitar twangs and Cohen’s bongo riffs, reminiscent of their old sound.
Other than their lead-in song “Three Trees” from their debut album Tanlines stayed faithful to their new, hit record. Since 2009’s Volume On the duo has transformed their hypnotic calypso harmonies into a sling of nostalgic 80s synth-pop songs. Even though this live performance highlighted their musical prowess, their pop star status needs a bit of polishing.
While Tanlines set didn’t live up to their subtly sexy name, opener Rewards supplied the eye candy and stage allure. Chairlift’s ex-guitarist, Aaron Pfenning, fronts the band with his dreamy vocals and sensual synths. Relatively unknown except for their infectious single with Solange Knowles, this (other) Brooklyn duo boasts serious sonic beauty. Following in the steps of Tanlines, Rewards guitar, percussion and keyboard combination makes for a sound that’s pretty irresistible. It’s hard to say who stole the show, Pfenning’s blonde locks or the impressive guitar ballads. Whatever the case may be, the early crowd was all in.
Both duets made for a charmed night of tropical pop. Get an early taste of summer and slip Tanlines and Rewards into your stereo while the sun’s out.
Words and photos by Megan Gex.