Tallies aim big on their first album but often end up sounding merely bloated.
Image via Stereo Sanctity
The record is consistent, although listening from start to finish is a bit like wading through treacle. While exhibiting some classic sounds – like the sweeping guitars and the bass’s counter-melody on the opener ‘Trouble’ – and featuring strong vocals from frontwoman, Sarah Cogan, one cannot get away from feeling that the record is just a tad samey.
At multiple points across the album’s duration, it feels as if there is a good song at the core of the track, but that it has been drowned in overproduction. The layers serve to obscure the lyrics and melody, allowing little breathing space or light and shade. This is particularly true of ‘Mother’, whose lyrics are a sweet ode to motherly wisdom rejected in one’s teenage years. It’s a shame that these words are somewhat buried in the mix. The track hints at a personality, which is unfortunately smothered by overbearing guitar noise.
On ‘Midnight’, however, the instrumental palette is diversified as the band grabs the 12-string from the rack to deliver a song that could have easily found itself on The Sundays’ Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, which Tallies has said was an important influence on the album. At four minutes 36 seconds though, it does drag a little and the softness turns mushy for its overstayed welcome.
The fourth track ‘Have You’ reminds one of the band’s Canadian counterparts, Alvvays in its melodic, wistful approach to the dream pop genre. Cogan more than fills the boots of The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde over the swagger of jangly guitar and a bass that confidently cuts through the swirling layers of sound. The song is just long enough to satisfy, falling just shy of the three-minute mark, and makes you wonder what the album could have been had the band followed this template rather than reaching for the half-conceived shoegaze that dominates the record.
‘Trains in Snow’ deals with a very Canadian subject matter with its ambient guitars evoking the screeching, scraping and whistling of said locomotive in wintry conditions. It’s a shame that for the most part, this snow has turned prematurely to slush, lacking the crisp definition of a fresh fall. The last 30 seconds are a complete whiteout, with gentle acoustic strumming playing over maxed out noise.
From the melancholy of ‘Trains in Snow’ the bassline in ‘Eden’ attempts to inject some light into the listing but it is never really allowed to be joyous due to the over-the-top ambient guitar work. ‘Beat the Heart’ similarly feels like a decent song underneath it all but is made to sound like a slow-motion replay with the overuse of phaser guitar.
Concluding the album is ‘Easy Enough’ – a song that stands above the rest in its development of melody and sustaining the listener’s interest. The tune is, in this instance, perky enough to cut through the dirge-like shoegazing. Again, the track abruptly stops 30 seconds from the end to give way to ambient noise, which is much more irritating than it is innovative.
Overall, Tallies is inoffensive and, in many places, quite pleasant. However, the shoegaze elements are derivative and contribute to the album’s soupy aesthetic rather than raising the level of abstraction.