Tuesday, March 24, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1353: Tacocat

Apologies for my extended absence, gentle readers. I was enjoying a long weekend celebrating my wedding anniversary with my lovely wife, Sheila. Mostly this involved a lot of staying at home, due to, you know, the pandemic.

I drank a few drinks and we played a lot of board games. We also did a fun vampire photo shoot to keep our spirits up – to see the hilarity visit Sheila’s blog here. So glad I found such a fun, thoughtful, wonderful, beautiful person to spend my life with.

Now here’s a little music!

Disc 1353 is….This Mess is a Place
Artist: Tacocat

Year of Release: 2019

What’s up with the Cover? A bunch of faces all crammed together, but please don’t be alarmed. These people are not violating social distancing requirements; it’s just a collage.

How I Came To Know It: I read a review of this album and decided to check it out. I liked it and so…here we are. I apologize if this story sounds eerily familiar to previous entries, but I discover a lot of my music this way. If you want to discover music outside of what Spotify’s AI decides you should like, or what radio DJs think is good (but is usually not) then you’ve got to put in the work yourself.

How It Stacks Up:  I liked Tacocat enough that I checked out their two previous albums as well (see: putting in the work comment above). However, while the other albums had some good songs on them, none of them moved me sufficiently to purchase them. So far, “This Mess is a Place” stands alone, and therefore can’t stack up.

Ratings: 4 stars

Being a band from Seattle, it is easy to imagine Tacocat growing up admiring Sleater-Kinney. They don’t have the same amount of angry edge in their music, but they have a similar approach to songwriting: the ability to write a catchy tune, but never let themselves to be slave to the hook.

That isn’t to say these songs don’t have hooks, because they have awesome hooks. But they also have a moody, alternative sway in them that lets you know that this isn’t a vacuous pop song. The hook grabs your attention but doesn’t hold it on its own. On top of those hooks and sways, the band displays a strong sense of style, mixing elements of pop, grunge, punk and sixties beach music into something unique.

When they are at their crunchiest, Tacocat have that Camaro rock sound I’m admittedly obsessed with of late (Bleached, Ex Hex, Thunderpussy, et al.). However, they also have a playful quality that draws you in, and lets you know that while the songs are about serious topics, they are OK with packaging them up with a bit of danceable fun.

It all starts with the vocals of Emily Nokes. Nokes has a playful pop style that is given an extra edge with a Liz Phair-like “couldn’t care less” dismissiveness. Nokes seems keenly aware she could be a pop star but is so much happier giving that notion the finger. I applaud her for it.

Grains of Salt” delivers breezy perfection as a young adult “be yourself” anthem. It is also a masterful combination of guitar rock, catchy dance-pop percussion and even a little eighties organ. It is so catchy, hipsters listening to it might be fearful of showing their love, lest they find out it is a radio hit. I know I was afraid but rest easy; it only has 52,000 Youtube hits. It deserves ten times that but I’ll need a lot more readers to put a dent in that shortfall.

The opening track, “Hologram” is a bit more serious. You wouldn’t know from the opening guitar riff, which is all “summer drives with the rag-top down” brilliance. But the song’s first few lines get dark quickly:

“Not so long ago, I used to feel like
I was too sensitive to even be alive
But maybe now it’s the opposite.

Or put another way, the world can wear you out a little and leave you wondering where truth lies. Fortunately, that catchy guitar riff has your back through the whole song, as Tacocat reveals that such uncertainty can be soothing as well. Or as the song reminds us, “Just remember, if you can, that power is a hologram”. Or put another way, it looks impressive, but it’s ephemeral. We’re just specks of cosmic dust, and that’s pretty freeing if you let it be.

I saw a live show of Tacocat recently, and it was clear that for all these Deep Thoughts they had learned the first lesson of rock and roll well; it should be fun. The song introductions were silly, mundane references to everyday life, accompanied by a wry grin and the striking up of the band.

However, these guys are sneaky clever. All those pop licks are seductive, but as is often the case with quality pop music, there is a lot going on behind the obvious that makes these songs better. The more I listened, the more I picked up and the better I liked it. Given how many influences they successfully incorporate, there’s a good chance you will too. Now turn off the goddamn radio and go find out.

Best tracks: Hologram, New World, Grains of Salt, Little Friend, Crystal Ball, Miles and Miles

1 comment:

Chris said...

Fun Fact: Alison and I saw these guys back at the 2012 Bumbershoot. I remember enjoying the show, but thinking that their sound was really suited for a sunny afternoon in the park, which was their venue that day.