Brooklyn’s Tanlines began as a remix project between two sidemen turned producers, Don Caballero’s Eric Emm and Professor Murder’s Jesse Cohen. They earned acclaim for housing up tropical-tinged art-pop acts like Glasser and El Guincho, but it wasn’t until Emm started singing that the “next big thing” talk began. On the group’s 2010 breakout “Real Life”—which serves as centerpiece and spirit animal for Mixed Emotions—he gets his Peter Gabriel on, cooing over hand-smacked percussion and big pulsing synths, “For a minute I was lost / I was looking for a home.” Tanlines’ debut LP carries the dance-addled duo over the threshold.
Considering the meteoric rise of the similarly inclined Gotye, Tanlines has a lot to gain. The pair buttresses its songs with a scholarly love for house music and a Yeasayer-like fetish for worldly strains. But like Australia’s sudden star, Emm and Cohen keep their eyes on the pop prize: affecting lyrics about making connections and losing them, and music that follows those sentiments as they soar or sink. “Brothers” attempts to bridge a rift between old companions while a mix of seething beats, crashing waves, and laconic guitar alternately ups the tension and cools the mood. “Abby” is both breezy and dense, a song about denial and hard truths set to coasting Latin disco. On the brightly burning “Yes Way,” Emm declares, “The world isn’t over.”
For all of its titular feelings, however, Mixed Emotions occasionally suffers from a flatness of dynamic. Those highs could climb higher, the lows could really crawl. But there’s no question that Tanlines have found their path forward.