Tanlines Release New Single “Burns Effect”
New Album The Big Mess out 19th May on Merge Records
Tanlines, the duo composed of Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen,share a video for “Burns Effect,” the sizzling new single from their first new album in eight years, The Big Mess, out May 19th on Merge Records.
“This song is deep and dark and dangerous, but in a fun way,” Emm explains. “It’s one of the more personal tracks on the album where this ungrounded part of my personality surfaces as an over-the-top, almost ironic character. In the video, I’m channeling a lounge lizard version of the Thom Yorke dancing video and the bad-boy persona of an MTV-era late-career rocker, oozing machismo in a classic dark and humorous Tanlines way.”
The new release oozes this insatiable appeal. Immediately the delicate strokes and percussive attributes create this alluring vortex of moving attributes and this mesmeric ambiance. The delicate yet sultry vocal harmonies glide above the rhythmic passages and the harmonic range guides the affection that cascades throughout the vibrant world.
Last month the band announced The Big Mess with a clever and amusing video for its beat-driven lead single “Outer Banks,” which received praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and NPR.
The logo accompanying Tanlines’ 2012 debut album Mixed Emotions was a winking sad-face emoji—cute, even profound, in its dead-simple representation of two seemingly conflicting ideas at the same time. Eleven years later, Eric Emm and Jesse Cohen are still making escapist, joyful-sounding songs about sad, insular moments and melancholy songs about catharsis and joy, but the inherent contradictions have only grown.
Tanlines is an established duo of longtime friends and collaborators, but Tanlines is also kind of a solo project. The Big Mess came together when Emm and his family moved from Brooklyn to rural Connecticut, while Cohen launched a marketing career and a successful podcast and stayed in the city. Emm continued writing songs—hundreds of them—through all the weirdness of the past few years, but he wasn’t exactly sure who he was writing them for. “I spent years figuring out in my mind, ‘What is my musical life going to look like?’” he says. “I just kept writing.”
Cohen gave Emm his blessing to continue Tanlines, even if his own contributions would be limited due to his own non-musical obligations. “I’m like, ‘Whatever you can do to keep this thing going, do it,’” Cohen says. “Eric stopped going to school as a teenager to make music—it’s in his blood, where it’s more in my brain.” And with that, Tanlines was reborn.
It wasn’t until January 2022 that Emm felt he had a body of work that made sense as a Tanlines album, and the good people at Merge Records enthusiastically agreed. Cohen spent ten days with Emm at his Connecticut studio, along with unofficial third Tanline Patrick Ford. This was tied together with a sleek final mix from Peter Katis (The National, Interpol) at his famed Tarquin Studios, resulting in a clear vision of what Emm’s musical life was going to look like: The Big Mess.
“There’s a lot more reflection here, for Eric at least,” Cohen says, “on his past and his career as an artist, than we would have done before when we were banging out electronic pop tunes with sad melodies on top.”
“It’s in my DNA,” Emm says, “to always be questioning everything. I’m not really a nostalgic person, but there were times when these songs were coming together when I found myself reflecting or even reckoning with some of my past and turning them into teaching moments.”
The Big Mess album cover is a photo taken by Emm’s wife’s grandfather in Greece in 1952. Speaking again to the idea of two things at once, the photo is a bold and emotional image that is also muted and beige. Emm notes, “Something about this particular photo really spoke to me—the image of a shepherd who has this very self-possessed and somewhat inscrutable expression. He’s sort of straddling two different eras.” He continues, “Our debut EP featured a photo taken in a mall of an ad with two white guys smiling. This is a nod to that, but also represents a big shift in our roles. I’ve stepped closer to the front and have shepherded us here, so to speak. Now it’s one white guy smiling. It’s also a poke at aging and being a guy with gray hair and a beard. Not to mention his sartorial energy.”
Emm concludes, “I think of these songs as Rothko paintings: They’re big and they’re bold and they’re seemingly straightforward, but they have a lot of depth and they engage with you and make you feel something.”
The Big Mess Tracklist:
1. The Big Mess
2. Outer Banks
3. New Reality
4. Burns Effect
7. Arm’s Length Away
8. Endless Love
10. Hold On
11. The Age of Innocence