The biggest problem that musical magpies run into is that during the course of collecting every kind of music they can get their hands on, they forget the vital step of establishing some kind of unique musical persona. It's a tough problem to dodge and on their first album, Alone with a Friend, the L.A. quintet Talk in Tongues do a pretty decent job of it. Though they are deeply in debt to the phased-out neo-psych sound of Tame Impala, borrow heavily from the latest batch of new wave revivalists, and add a bit of disco because that's the thing to do in 2015, there's enough solid songcraft and relaxed sonic style to keep the album from being just a fancy, multicolored ball of discarded string and plastic. The band cruise through the album with a detached air, never breaking a sweat as they slide from one midtempo effects-laden track to the next. With a multitude of guitar sounds, interesting synth washes, and the kind of dreamy vocals that float above the mix like hovering clouds, the album certainly sounds good, if a little samey. The times it works best are when the haze lifts a bit and Talk in Tongues either rock out a little harder (like on the 13th Floor Elevators-inspired rave-up "She Lives in My House"), do a good job of adding some disco without getting campy ("While Everyone Was Waiting"), or jangle darkly like vintage Rain Parade ("Time's Still [For No One Yet]"). When they really take a leap sideways on the deeply atmospheric '70s soul-influenced "Call for No One Else" (which sports some absolutely divine harmony vocals) or the noise-saturated synth ballad "Always All the Time," where they sound like Ultravox playing with broken equipment, it's almost like a completely different, slightly more interesting band took over in the studio and Talk in Tongues put their name on the tape reel by mistake.
Next time out, they need to take a few more chances like this if they really want to become a band people look to for innovative, unique music. Alone with a Friend is mostly musical comfort food, an appetizer to keep fans of psych pop from starving while they wait for the next Tame Impala or Temples or Jagwar Ma album to come along. While there's nothing wrong with that, and the album is totally enjoyable, sometimes you need something more than an appetizer in order to feel fully satiated.