Before the release of 2015's Tightropes, Los Angeles' Tall Tales & the Silver Lining had well established their character as sunlit indie folk dipped in '70s pop/rock, specifically à la the hit singles of Jackson Browne and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: melodic, at ease rather than provocative, unfolding rather than asserting, even taking time for guitar solos. Like contemporaries the War on Drugs, the recordings of songwriter Trevor Beld-Jimenez and band don't recycle a past era so much as express the musically internalized. In other words, they come off as authentic and of their own time. With Tightropes, Tall Tales shift ever so slightly toward the '80s with synths, melodic guitar, and sweet, monosyllabic backing vocals, as on the leadoff track, "Something to Believe In" ("Your love is something I believe in"), and later "Both Alive." Despite the presence of synths, as well as contemporary guitar effects and recording quality, the band still evokes the '70s, mostly via Beld-Jimenez's songwriting tendencies. These include vocal melodies that at times recall Paul Simon ("Harder for You," "Wade Through the Storm") and more frequently, as is often remarked though they wouldn't be mistaken for one another, a vocal delivery that recalls Tom Petty. "Let It Go" has a grooving bassline, jangly guitars, and a pre-chorus with Beld-Jimenez vocally at his Petty-est. The conspicuous pedal steel on tracks such as "Unknown Forces" and "Wade Through the Storm" balances the album's conservative but noticeable use of synths, quick tempos, and simple catchiness in general, bringing a musical drawl to match Beld-Jimenez's own. Though Tall Tales' most energetic offering thus far, Tightropes plays like a pair of well-worn shoes: reliable, comfortable, incapable of blistering, and ideal for a long drive or kicking back with pals.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson