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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 30.0° F  Fog/Mist
The Paper

TOUR STOP

Tapes 'n Tapes: The secret life of a data analyst
Frontman Josh Grier still loves his day job


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When Tapes 'n Tapes were being introduced by David Letterman and fawned over by Pitchfork in 2006, frontman Josh Grier never let it go to his head.

He kept his ho-hum job as a data analyst manager for a health benefits administration company. Resisting the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, he stared down indie rock stardom and voluntarily returned to eight-hour shifts in a cubicle.

Grier says he likes the people he works with and just wants to be normal.

He likes the members of Tapes 'n Tapes, too, but the band's brief career has been more exceptional than normal.

Tapes 'n Tapes burst out of Minneapolis and onto the national music scene with a bang in the early months of 2006. That's when the band began an East Coast tour in support of their first CD, The Loon.

Music bloggers took notice of the unpolished, muscular guitar rock that had a quirky pop edge, akin to the Pixies.

Tapes 'n Tapes promoted The Loon as an album that had been recorded "in the winter time at a cabin in the Wisconsin woods with no running water."

Last April, Tapes 'n Tapes released their follow-up album, Walk It Off. Grier's songwriting is no less adventuresome this time out. A curious bass line carries a lonely voice through the opening bars of "Time of Songs." "Conquest" provides the kind of jangly love-rock reminiscent of late '80s Beat Happening, and it's my favorite track on the disc.

The new set of songs is enough to keep fans of the band happy, even if Walk It Off hasn't been met with critical acclaim.

The stiff production work of ex-Mercury Rev bassist Dave Fridmann mars the sophomore album significantly. His heavy-handed use of fuzz imbues too many of the songs with an uncomfortable hiss. On tracks such as "Headshock," the essential charm of the song structure quickly sinks under waves of reverberation.

Even with these missteps, it's unlikely that Tapes 'n Tapes' 15 minutes of fame are near expiration. Grier's songwriting remains solid, and Tapes 'n Tapes is well positioned to remain an indie rock force for years to come.

That is, if Grier doesn't pack it all in for the thrill of a good confidence interval.

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