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Music Review: Tilly and the Wall – o

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Some may see Tilly and the Wall as a gimmick; those people are missing out. The band is infamous for having a clogging percussionist instead of a traditional drummer. On their first album, Wild Like Children, they were meek about this. They downplayed the clogging and included more traditional percussion than they have since then.

On 2006’s Bottoms of Barrels, the clogging seemed to be where the emotion was coming from. The clogging brought energy and a sense of joy to the songs. Here on their third album, o,the clogging has become a full instrument, completely integrated into the band’s sound. While that may still be seen as a gimmick, the band is talented enough to keep that from happening.

Their sound is hard to describe. They do not sound radically different from other indie rock bands, just off-kilter enough to be unique. The clogging gives their songs galloping rhythms. Most of the instrumental melodies come from keyboards and occasionally the guitar. The guitar is more often used as layer of noise to go over the melodies and rhythms.

The band has three main vocalists (Kianna Alarid, Neely Jenkins, and Derek Presnall) and often uses all three of them over the course of the song. The vocal tempo is at an odd pace, halfway between talking and singing. Their vocals are more articulate and discernible than other bands. This could be a disaster, but Tilly and the Wall are talented musicians and songwriters. The band is very tight and this keeps them from sounding messy and disorganized. In fact, nearly every one of their songs is easy to sing along to.

o is their best album so far. They are more confident in their sound than they have ever been. They are versatile with it; not all the songs sound the same and bleed together. They rabble-rouse on the tracks “Pot Kettle Black” and “Blood Flower.” They give us their version of power-pop/new wave on “Dust Me Off.” They even slow it down on “Tall Tall Grass,” a simple, mid-tempo ballad.

Despite all the various styles, the album sounds consistent. There is not a bad song on the album. Tilly and the Wall are at a creative peak, fully in control of their songwriting and their sound. If you are at all interested in indie rock, you should give this CD a listen.

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About Mark Kalriess

  • Jeff Caveney

    Yes! Another music fan who appreciates just how incredibly good this album is. If pop-rock music has a future, Tilly and the Wall is it. I can’t wait to hear where they go next. “o” is my choice for album of the decade. If you think there’s something better out there, I’d like to know what it is so I can check it out.

  • Thanks for the comment Jeff. I don’t know about album of the decade but this one would definitely be in consideration. Another album I thought was amazing and underrated was Architecture in Helsinki’s Like it or Not EP. You should check it out, here’s my review of that.

    As for any album being better, I personally can’t qualify albums I like as “better” than others. A few bands that I think have been pushing music forwards still are Modest Mouse, Bloc Party, Vampire Weekend, and the Arcade Fire. But that’s just a small list, and everyone has their own.