Glint Recordings (2015), available via Bandcamp
The sophomore slump. Second Album Syndrome. Call it what you will. It’s a thing, right? A promising début can be difficult to follow, and indie pop trio Inspector Tapehead‘s début, Duress Code, was indeed promising. It’s taken over five years for the follow up, So Solar, to arrive, and you’d perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the loss of momentum can only spell disaster for the band’s second offering. But you’d be wrong.
Part indie pop, part Americana folk, drenched in waves of synth, So Solar‘s sound is an interesting blend. From the driven electronic beats of the title track through to the clarinet infused soundscape of moody instrumental piece PM WEFT and the chiptune playfulness of Weather Rapport, there’s a variety of styles at play here. The band’s deft handling of dynamics and smooth transitions ensures that, for the most part, these individual elements coalesce into a convincing whole.
Take, for example, the album’s lead single, Soldier Boy. Featuring guest vocals from the lauded Panda Su, it’s pure catchy, breezy pop with a synth kicker that brings down the tempo just enough to lead nicely into modern folk ditty Wait for It, itself dissolving into a protracted soothing ambience. The album flows, and, with the exception of one or two incongruent riffs, there’s nary a jagged edge to be found that doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to be there.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of So Solar’s flow are the moments sprinkled throughout where the synth is allowed to recede entirely and expose the folk sensibility at the heart of Chris Croasdale’s song-writing. This is laid bare in the cleverly placed Midday Broadcast, a contemplative, stripped back acoustic number and the album’s sole pure folk entry. It tunes the listener in, by way of contrast, to the Americana sounds bubbling away just under the surface of the rest of the album and ties the whole thing together.
It would seem then that those five years between albums have been, if anything, a boon to Inspector Tapehead, allowing them the time to approach their second outing thoughtfully. Whether another extended wait is in store before the Inspector again resurfaces remains to be seen, but the measured craftsmanship evident in So Solar proves them to be, if you have the patience for it, a band well worth keeping an eye on.