Hand Drawn Dracula, Kanine Records
Toronto-based dream pop outfit Tallies certainly had plenty of reasons to celebrate over the weekend as their debut self-titled LP officially released this past Friday (Jan. 11th). The band, comprised of singer/rhythm guitarist Sarah Cogan, lead guitarist Dylan Frankland, drummer Cian O’Neill, and bassist Stephen Pitman, has given listeners eleven tracks that authentically outline what Tallies and their sound at the outset of their music career is all about. While some critics have simply described the singles leading up to the release as indie pop, Tallies does anything but play to a single style or influence across the entire project and that is exemplified most clearly across the first few tracks.
The record opens on the dreamy ‘Trouble,’ showcasing right away many of the recurring aspects of the bands well-constructed and defined soundscape. Elements such as reverb-heavy guitars and vocals, driving bass, and O’Neill’s highly adaptive drumming feature prominently here and throughout the record, in fact no song is without these four key elements. ‘Trouble’ then runs straight into the album’s lead single ‘Mother.’ Having the two songs occupy one space by having them run together makes it apparent how Tallies wishes to show listeners their versatility as early on as possible. Featuring guitar riffs you can’t help but bob your head to, groovy bass, crisp percussion, as well as lighthearted and danceable instrumentation ‘Mother’ feels antithetical to the forlorn ‘Trouble’ in the best possible way as their differences only serve to further accentuate their individual strengths. Lyrics centred around moving on and heeding the advice of one’s mother causes the aerious sound to further replicate the feeling of a weight being lifted off the shoulders of Cogan’s narrator character.
‘Midnight’ is very much a continuation of the first two tracks in the sense that Tallies really can’t wait to show you everything they can do. As they incorporate acoustic guitar alongside the now characteristic reverb-soaked lead electric guitar Tallies keeps it close to their sonic comfort zone. However, this minor change in instrumentation allows them to work with a dialled back vibe to further complement Cogan’s voice as she sings “good night” over drumming that almost seems to twinkle like a clear midnight sky. Tallies is alike to The Smiths on this track as the overall tone of both the lyrics and the guitar blend together in such a way that is reminiscent of their influence on the group yet Tallies is able to craft something divergent and unique through their use of effects and overall arrangement.
Coming close to the midpoint of the record Tallies shows no signs of stopping as Cogan’s range is showcased most prominently here. While it is still being filtered through the Tallies characteristic echo, the emotional delivery of ‘Not So Proud’ is where she truly shines. In fact, the whole band comes together in top form on this cut as each and every member plays their part to the fullest. The chorus’ melody is catchy and the guitars during the refrain serve to further amp up the earworm factor that makes this track a total hit. Pitman is having a good deal of fun with the bass line keeping the sparsely populated lower register of the song interesting and O’Neill knows exactly how to complement aspects of all three other performers with well-timed embellishment.
Following this, ‘Trains and Snow’ features a true cacophony of an arrangement that persists throughout the cut making any and all rests stick out in the most effective sense. Little touches like Pitman’s short bass lead-in injects that always forward moving feeling into the track as it carries along. However, the mixing of Cogan’s vocals seem to be one piece too many for the most part, causing the song to feel drowned in it’s own mix at times.
‘Eden’ opens on a lush garden of sounds. Shoegaze riffs, an airy rhythm section, and Cogan’s doubled vocals reverberate giving the song a certain out-of-doors feeling as it echoes off non-existent walls as Cogan informs the listener that “Eden is all around you.” While the structure is similar to other cuts on the record Cogan keeps things interesting with her vocalising along with the guitars throughout the tracks denouement.
‘Beat The Heart’ feels just as the title describes with a bodily rhythm being the driving force of the track, the sort of song someone might sit alone with their eyes shut while listening to it. To some the track might even be reminiscent of a weighted blanket slowly being laid upon you, some truly dreamy pop. Cogan’s vocals are reflective and Frankland’s surf-rock picking plays perfectly to the tone. While not exactly the quietest song on the album, Tallies shows how they are capable of making their listeners feel a broad range without compromising their usual arrangement. ‘Giving Up’ is another pillowy dream pop reflection. Contrary to the negative connotation of the title, the song is sonically quite bright.
‘Rocks’ feels very much steeped in a particular memory or place that someone may visit in the summer and remembers quite fondly. Delicate guitar leads, fuzzy bass, and a driving pace give it the same feeling of the places and experiences Cogan seems to be channelling in the lyrical content. The song is sweet overall but very much plays in that established space Tallies has crafted throughout the record, making it less distinguishable from some other tracks present here unfortunately.
Closing the record, ‘Easy Enough’ is bouncy and danceable in that “alone in my house with the stereo turned all the up” sort of way that just makes you want to cut loose and forget the sorts of things that Cogan describes behind layers of echo, illustrating the distance and barriers people may put between the cold memories and colder people that she describes. Unfortunately, Tallies’ choice to simply have the song (and by extension the record) end on repeated refrains followed by a hard cut to static feels hurried and lacklustre compared to the strength of character Tallies pursued and achieved in their music throughout the record up to this point.
With this being Tallies first record it is understandable that there is still a great deal of experimentation to be done as they carve a deeper niche sonically. While in some ways this record could be called a “proof of concept” because of their close adherence to the structure and sound they very clearly wish to achieve, at times some songs begin to feel a little too closely related to others. However, simply calling this album “safe” would be a disservice to all the hard work and prowess that is shown here as Tallies has exhibited so much potential that could go any number of directions as presented by their eclectic influences and unique takes on the many genres they draw inspiration from. This record is fresh and I certainly believe that Tallies is only going to get fresher as they have more time to experiment with, what can certainly be referred to as, their sound.
An Album Review by Maguire Stevens