Tanlines Announce The Big Mess

Tanlines, the duo comprised of Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen—have announced the May 19 release of The Big Mess, their first album in eight years
Tanlines, the duo comprised of Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen—have announced the May 19 release of The Big Mess

Tanlines, the duo comprised of Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen—have announced the May 19 release of The Big Mess, their first album in eight years. The full-length will drop via Merge Records and marks their debut for the label. Today, they have given fans a taste of the album with the track “Outer Banks.”

“This song is about being a perfectionist. When I was younger, I thought that being called that was a compliment,” Eric Emm shares. “But I’ve come to realize it’s actually a liability. This is especially true in any kind of partnership. Making concessions, adjustments and letting things go are all components of a successful endeavor.” Tanlines made a video for the song and Cohen says, “I’ve spent the last few years in work environments where the deck seems to have become the primary communication tool for young professionals. I wanted to find a way to use that language to tell the story of our song, ‘Outer Banks.’ Hopefully this video resonates and tickles anyone who has sat through the kind of presentation at work where someone in a box on the screen just reads the slides out loud. Welcome to Tanlines’ hybrid work era!”

Tanlines is an established duo of longtime friends and collaborators, but Tanlines is also kind of a solo project. The Big Mess came together when Emm and his family moved from Brooklyn to rural Connecticut, while Cohen launched a marketing career and a successful podcast and stayed in the city. Emm continued writing songs—hundreds of them—through all the weirdness of the past few years, but he wasn’t exactly sure who he was writing them for. “I spent years figuring out in my mind, ‘What is my musical life going to look like?’” he says. “I just kept writing.”

Cohen gave Emm his blessing to continue Tanlines, even if his own contributions would be limited due to his own non-musical obligations. “I’m like, ‘Whatever you can do to keep this thing going, do it,’” Cohen says. “Eric stopped going to school as a teenager to make music—it’s in his blood, where it’s more in my brain.” And with that, Tanlines was reborn.

“That opened a new door in my mind,” says Emm. “I was like, ‘Oh, wait a second—I have this studio in my basement. I can record drums whenever I want. That’s the whole point of this.’”

It wasn’t until January 2022 that Emm felt he had a body of work that made sense as a Tanlines album, and the good people at Merge Records enthusiastically agreed. Cohen spent ten days with Emm at his Connecticut studio, along with unofficial third Tanline Patrick Ford. This was tied together with a sleek final mix from Peter Katis (The National, Interpol) at his famed Tarquin Studios, resulting in a clear vision of what Emm’s musical life was going to look like: The Big Mess.

“There’s a lot more reflection here, for Eric at least,” Cohen says, “on his past and his career as an artist, than we would have done before when we were banging out electronic pop tunes with sad melodies on top.”

“It’s in my DNA,” Emm says, “to always be questioning everything. I’m not really a nostalgic person, but there were times when these songs were coming together when I found myself reflecting or even reckoning with some of my past and turning them into teaching moments.”

The Big Mess album cover is a photo taken by Emm’s wife’s grandfather in Greece in 1952. Speaking again to the idea of two things at once, the photo is a bold and emotional image that is also muted and beige. Emm notes, “Something about this particular photo really spoke to me—the image of a shepherd who has this very self-possessed and somewhat inscrutable expression. He’s sort of straddling two different eras.” He continues, “Our debut EP featured a photo taken in a mall of an ad with two white guys smiling. This is a nod to that, but also represents a big shift in our roles. I’ve stepped closer to the front and have shepherded us here, so to speak. Now it’s one white guy smiling. It’s also a poke at aging and being a guy with gray hair and a beard. Not to mention his sartorial energy.”

Emm concludes, “I think of these songs as Rothko paintings: They’re big and they’re bold and they’re seemingly straightforward, but they have a lot of depth and they engage with you and make you feel something.”

The Big Mess
Merge Records

1. The Big Mess
2. Outer Banks
3. New Reality
4. Burns Effect
5. Clouds
6. Unreal
7. Arm’s Length Away
8. Endless Love
9. Speed
10. Hold On
11. The Age of Innocence

Pre-order The Big Mess by Tanlines HERE


Looking for something new to listen to?

Sign up to our all-new newsletter for top-notch reviews, news, videos and playlists.