The Tanlines sound has evolved considerably since their 2008 debut “New Flowers” on Young Turks. So much so, in fact, that even the nature of the project has changed: they've gone from being an ecstatic production combo to a delicate electronic pop duo. Over the years, apart from touring with the likes of Vampire Weekend, The xx and Julian Casablancas, the couple were evicted from their studio, which proved to be essential for the birth of “Mixed Emotions”. Because, robbed of a space where they could improvise as they pleased, they were forced to return to the guitar as the primary tool for their song-writing. Add Eric Emm's polishing of his more than notable vocal register to the equation, and you get an album on which the classic song is more important than structural freedom, and the transmission of feelings more than the creation of moods. In short: a proper pop record.
Over the course of the twelve cuts on the album, Tanlines give full meaning to its title, expressing bitter emotions through bright melodies. However, success doesn't lie in the formula, but in the way it's applied. To make the recipe effective, you need great songs, and this record has plenty. It contains songs that talk of the passage of time, loss, changes, and learning. Songs about growing older and having to face the obstacles life sets up for you while looking you straight in the eye. Melancholic lyrics, which, thanks to the exuberant production - the cascades of radiant synths, the vigorous rhythms and exalting melodies - avoid sinking to the low levels of misery. They essentially transmit a kind of euphoric nostalgia that is a big part of the album's success.
As they admit themselves, the buoyant spirit of New Order and The KLF (the bands Emm and Jesse Cohen were listening to when they were kids) is omnipresent on this effort. It possesses a hedonist soul, which - on songs like “Brothers” and “All Of Me”, the two first tracks - appears dressed up like chill-wave in the vein of The Tough Alliance and Air France. Unlike peers such as Neon Indian, Tanlines don't look for shelter in decades past. Instead, they opt for a modern sound, in accordance with today's zeitgeist. That's why the punk-pop of “Green Grass”, vaguely reminiscent of The Ramones, sounds like it's been remixed by Washed Out. On songs like “Abby” and “Not The Same”, however, they sound like a lethargic and emotional version of Delorean. The Spanish references don't end there: “Yes Way”, “Laughing” and “Real Life” are in the vein of the tropical sounds of El Guincho, only from a contemplative and contained viewpoint rather than a festive one. The final part - “Rain Delay”, “Cactus” and “Nonesuch” - reveals the most taciturn side of the LP. Here (particularly on the former) they do refer to the eighties, but not your typical eighties; Prefab Sprout rather than Duran Duran, so to speak. All of this without that comforting feeling ever fading. In short, “Mixed Emotions” is one fine pop album, aiming for the soul and expressing precise feelings without becoming fake or overly melodramatic. Furthermore – and most importantly – it doesn’t present a single bad melody.