From the very first bars, the Tallies' self-titled debut album opens the young Canadian quartet to the slings and arrows of being written off as copycats; derivative at best, sonic bandits at worst. They sound so much like a note-perfect cross between the Sundays, Lush, the Smiths, the Ocean Blue, and other bands of that era that paired smeary guitar jangle with passionate reverb-drowned vocals that it's hard to believe the band isn't the offspring of those bands. Every note feels lifted directly from the past, every beat hits like nostalgia, and every word Sarah Cogan sings comes across like a voice beamed in on a distant college radio wave. It's all been done before and it's clear that this album should be a disaster. Here's the thing, though, it's really good. Maybe even great. If it had come out in 1991, people would be using it as a touchstone, clutching their old CD or newly reissued vinyl to their chest like an old friend who helped them through the hard times. These kids tap into the essence of what made those bands so perfect and don't update it for modern times as much as strip away all the facets of the early '90s that were bad, like dodgy production techniques, poor CD sound, or dance crossovers, and just focus on what matters. Emotionally powerful songs delivered with huge hooks, cascading guitars, a crack rhythm section, and a vocalist who can break a heart with tenderness. Pick almost any track on the album and it would make the grade on a '90s dream pop mixtape. Some of the songs have a propulsive thrust that makes them nearly jump out of the speakers ("Trouble," "Mother'); some tread a more melancholy path (the lilting "Eden"); a few have the stately jangle of vintage Cocteau Twins ("Midnight.") The band only stumble a tiny bit on "Giving Up," a track where they rely on a clunky drum machine instead of drummer Cian O’Neill, which is a bit like taking out your best goalie and replacing him with a bucket of water. O'Neill's powerful playing is one of the best parts of the album, along with Cogan's breathtaking vocals and guitarist Dylan Frankland's unerring knack for picking the right guitar effect. Working together like a team of gifted archeologists, the band have created the best kind of backward-looking album. It doesn't just repeat the past, it mines it for gold while tossing out the dross, a process that works to refine this record until it gleams like a precious gem.
by Tim Sendra