The Brooklyn indie duo Tanlines are back with a new song, “Outer Banks,” which will appear on their first album in eight years, The Big Mess. The album arrives May 19 via Merge.
“Outer Banks” is a booming track that guitarist/vocalist Eric Emm said in a statement is “about being a perfectionist,” and trying to shake off the idea of that being a compliment. “I’ve come to realize it’s actually a liability,” Emm added. “This is especially true in any kind of partnership. Making concessions, adjustments and letting things go are all components of a successful endeavor.”
“Outer Banks” was released with a goofy music video in which Emm and percussionist Jesse Cohen “present” the song in PowerPoint/Keynote form. “I’ve spent the last few years in work environments where the deck seems to have become the primary communication tool for young professionals,” Cohen said. “I wanted to find a way to use that language to tell the story of our song, ‘Outer Banks.’ Hopefully this video resonates and tickles anyone who has sat through the kind of presentation at work where someone in a box on the screen just reads the slides out loud. Welcome to Tanlines’ hybrid work era!”
Tanlines emerged from Brooklyn’s late-2000s indie rock/electro scene, gaining traction with some early singles and EPs, before releasing their debut, Mixed Emotions, in 2012. Their second album, Highlights, arrived in 2015. In the eight years since, Cohen moved into a career in marketing and started the music podcast, No Effects. Meanwhile, Emm moved with his family to Connecticut, where he continued making music, including a 2018 EP of children’s music, Presents, and the songs that comprise The Big Mess.
Though billed as an album by Tanlines, The Big Mess is largely an Emm solo effort, with Cohen giving his bandmate the OK to keep using their name even if his contributions were minimal. “I’m like, ‘Whatever you can do to keep this thing going, do it,’” Cohen said. “Eric stopped going to school as a teenager to make music — it’s in his blood, where it’s more in my brain.”
Cohen did make some contributions to the album, spending 10 days with Emm in his Connecticut studio in early 2022 alongside unofficial third member Patrick Ford. The album was then mixed by Peter Katis, who has worked with indie stalwarts the National and Interpol.
“I think of these songs as Rothko paintings,” Emm said. “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.”