Review Summary: RIYL: music made with iPhone apps, Conrad Tao, floods of synthpop, turning back time and trying this again
It’s always gratifying listening to an album that undergoes some sort of discernible change in attitude or sound from start to finish. It just feels more worth listening to- like the artist underwent significant changes throughout, so it moves you to, as well. Many of my favorite albums epitomize this quality, and Tau Tau does a wonderful job at bringing this aspect to the forefront of his debut album, the synth-bathed pop effort, Eyelids
. The young artist has created something amorphous and dynamic in that it evolves from hook-laden, nostalgic pieces into more stoic territory near the ending. All the while, a distinct lightness keeps it afloat as one of the most easy-to-listen-to releases of this year.
One might not have guessed it from Tau Tau’s past as an accomplished pianist, but Eyelids
has an airiness to it, an openness to the listener. He is up front about it in “Press Repeat,” where Tau Tau beckons, “I beg you, my dear, to press repeat.”
The ebullient pop tones and rhythms of the first few tracks make this difficult not to succumb to. At the same time, the product is more endearing than it is manufactured (which it could have easily succumbed to given the frequent use of loops and the like) because of the seeming self-awareness behind the project. Eyelids
emotes a Postal Service-esque quality because of Tau Tau’s efficient ability to induce nostalgia and emotion out of such synthetic ingredients. The lyrics at the start of Eyelids
are unabashedly cheesy, but because of the genuine absorption of Tao into the tracks “Skies,” “Press Repeat,” and “Strung,” the result is cool and catchy rather than grating.
The plight of Eyelids
, though, is that the pieces of the puzzle are less satisfying than the whole, as there’s nary a standout besides the first two tracks. This contributes to the fullness of the album as I mentioned earlier; but it’s a strange take on the electro-pop sound-- a genre riddled with, even built around, playability and highlight tracks. Curiously, Tau Tau’s knack for nostalgia-bathing comes to the forefront in some of the most subdued tracks, like in the subtle synth of “Sentience of Detritus,” one of the most understated songs. But it’s not an abrupt change from the earlier atmosphere: with each track Eyelids
evolves from the cutesy opening pair into something riddled more with hesitation and anxiety (though it is a bit of a stretch using these as descriptors). “Sleepers,” with its slower tempo and more plodding vocal line, is the first track to induce the sobriety, whereas the track named with jibberish is the song that snaps listeners back into reality with a myriad of bleeps and bloops.
By the time (other highlight) “Upon Viewing Two Porcelain Figures, II” strikes ever so quietly, one’s left with a conspicuously different feeling than from square one. That being said though- ignore some of my rambling and don’t mistake Eyelids
for an emotionally taxing release, by any means. The lyrics are largely cheesy, but unabashedly so, which is what makes the piece rather charming. With his command of mood and organization, Tau Tau proves that this sideproject of his is a bright prospect for the future. In the meantime, it’s difficult to imagine that Eyelids
won’t have you press repeat at least a few times.