Brooklyn duo Tanlines return with a second helping of laid-back, romantic synth and guitar pop on their sophomore LP Highlights. The humid Balearic impulses and tropical rhythms of their slightly more danceable debut are more subdued here, though these warm, contemplative pop songs feel no less sunny or pleasing. Bandmates Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm began the project back in Pittsburgh with an album songwriting session at Emm's childhood home. When their computer was accidentally destroyed, denying them their typically digital composition method, they hammered out a number of tunes organically on guitar and drums, setting the stage for an album that ultimately feels more cohesive than their previous effort. Back in Brooklyn, they hooked up with Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor to co-produce the album, working with him in an old church where most of Cohen's vocal sessions were recorded. The more synth-led tracks like the buoyant single "Pieces" and the low-key dance track "Thinking" are in keeping with Tanlines' earlier work, though it's the guitar-led songs like "Slipping Away" and the lonesome "Invisible Ways" that really live up to the album's lofty title. Ultimately, though, the kind of generalized midtempo, melodic pop that Tanlines make is pretty widespread across the musical landscape, and they don't help their case by providing any real distinguishing features. Cohen and Emm are tidy and pleasant craftsmen in a crowded field of peers all referencing the same '80s touch points. Still, Highlights is a step forward for the band and with a bit of patience, its personality begins to show.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger