After so much blog and print buzz for Tapes 'n Tapes' excellent 2005 debut, The Loon, expectations were high for the Minnesota indie rockers' follow-up. Walk It Off successfully avoids the clichéd "sophomore slump" curse, due in large part to the work of producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney). The new record sounds like it was mastered through a Big Muff pedal, coating everything — vocals, drums, bass, guitars, keyboards — with a crackling layer of dusty distortion. The new direction adds an appropriately lo-fi crunch to the Tapes' relaxed aesthetic, but loses the fresh risk-taking that made the band's debut so diverse and unpredictable.
Singer and guitarist Josh Grier, whose warbling vocals sound like the Arcade Fire's Win Butler with more testosterone, sets the pace with opening salvo "Le Ruse," a burst of fuzzed-out energy beginning with a wave of feedback that explodes into power chords. "Hang Them All," with barked vocals over a syncopated guitar line, and the galloping "Conquest" are some of the most invigorated moments on the album, proof of the underlying creativity that lines the band's musical coffers.
Tapes 'n Tapes knows how to make relatively simple songwriting engaging, backing catchy vocal melodies with a blanket of solid guitars and drums. The band's formula is the core foundation of old-school indie rock. These days, it's hard to find an act that makes this basic approach sound unique, but at least Tapes 'n Tapes makes simple sound sublime.