Review: Tanlines’ ‘Highlights’ is worth the wait

It’s been almost exactly three years since Tanlines released their critically acclaimed debut album Mixed Emotions, and with the release of their sophomore album Highlights, there’s definitely a change – albeit a very minor one – to be detected. The 80s synth-pop inspired instrumentals are still there, as are lead singer Eric Emm’s soulful, despondent vocals, waxing lyrical of unrequited love and youthful nostalgia. But there’s a definite development to be found, in mood, in maturity, in process.

Indeed, Tanlines’ album definitely draws more on some acoustic melodies than the previous – perhaps due to multiple technological spats during the writing of the album, including the explosive breakdown of their computer, as Eric recounts here, and the result is a sound that is evocative of the duo’s own childhood. It’s interesting, because the band’s decision to work with an outside producer this time round – namely, Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear fame – result in a sound that’s more polished than their first album, yet still retaining that almost low-key, “recorded-in-the-basement” vibe.

At the risk of sounding like a precocious tween Youtube commenter, Highlights makes me long for a time before my time, creating an ambience reminiscent of dusky streets and white-washed houses of 1980s suburban America. The album soars and dips between tracks such as Pieces/Palace that can only been described as groovy and other, more stripped back numbers like Darling Dreamer. But ultimately it is the tracks which mesh the two elements – like Slipping Away and Invisible Ways, which construct a blissful matrimony between crisp guitar and New Wave electronica – that are the standouts of the album.

It’s hard to find an album that is both so nostalgic and so laden with dance-worthy tracks. But Highlights does exactly that, and with all of the 80s gusto that Tanlines are renowned for.