Tamaryn // Tender New Signs // October 16 // Mexican Summer
When bands are good and original they inspire a whole new movement. Shoegaze is one of the easiest genres to pinpoint with its central influence streaming from the everlasting Loveless. The better the genre is, the less bands try to innovate it and instead just stick with the already established formula. Indeed I can name a couple of bands that base their entire lives about making Loveless Pt.II. San Francisco’s dream pop duo Tamaryn feel like a concentrated sound of all the best bands associated with the movement and while that’s nothing to complain about, their second LP Tender New Signs offers too little to give them a voice of their own and set them apart from the sea of imitators.
On their debut LP The Waves Tamaryn have failed to set themselves apart from the start by opting for a warm spring sound. Tender New Signs comes two years after The Waves and drops just in time considering that it’s much colder, aiming for the autumn sound and delivering results that are better, more assured and at time more original. (At the time of writing this review I mentioned falling leaves as an imagery term but with the new video to The Garden featuring falling leaves, it’s like I summed up the predictability of the genre). Tender New Signs biggest asset when placed in the never ending pool of dream pop is that at least they’re not drowning all of their instruments in reverb. While the vocals on here are unquestionably My Bloody Valentine/Slowdive, the guitar and drums are clear and brings post-punk influenced bands like The Cure and Suede to mind. It creates music that is both soothing but also highly melodic. This makes lighter tracks like Heavenly Bodies and The Garden have a broader appeal than just the typical dream pop “drown everything in spring reverb” fare. You can even make out the lyrics that are being sung (obviously since this is shoegaze the lyrics are a mix of stupid poetry and clunky metaphors).
Possibly the most enjoyable thing about Tender New Signs is its reluctance to do what every other shoegaze group does and write songs with massive flourishes that try to trick the listener into thinking that the sounds on the record are huge. Sure the glide riffs sound colossal as they did 21 years ago but Tamaryn never feel like they have to force themselves for size. The most enjoyable tracks on here are the ones that take another step in this direction and seep out all of the volume out of themselves. No Exits and Transcendental Blue are the lovely highlights here, the few songs that could be described as shoegaze ballads, coming across as soothing and soft, not that dissimilar to the dreamy sound that bands like Still Corners or Beach House have carved out from themselves. With song titles like While You’re Sleeping, I’m Dreaming and Heavenly Bodies the listener would just accept that this is typical dream pop fare where words like “lush” and “ethereal” are used with no remorse. Tender New Signs is the best during the few moments when it turns down the drums and goes intimate, feeling like this is the sound of vapour rather than clouds.
It’s those moments when Tamaryn come into the world that is more their own but not everything here is those moments and majority of Tender New Signs is composed of the post-punk driven dreamy sounds that come across as less embarrassing School Of Seven Bells’ songs. This year we had some good original takes on dream pop and some brilliant bands cannibalising themselves to spectacular results. When compared to The Waves, Tender New Signs is a winner and a step in the right direction overstepping most of dream pop cliches while still playing with the pre-established sound. There’s a hope that Tamaryn will find their voice on record number 3 but the best thing about Tender New Signs is that it’s not as much shoegaze as it could’ve been.