Tallies Craft a Vision of Dream Pop All Their Own on 'Patina'

Published Jul 27, 2022

Upon first impression, it would be easy to dismiss Tallies' sophomore album Patina for leaning a little too hard into early '90s 4AD cosplay. With album art clearly indebted to the storied British label's iconic, tactile collaborations with graphic designer Vaughan Oliver, guitar tones that split the difference between Robin Guthrie's reverb-soaked note clusters and Johnny Marr's precise strum-work, the Toronto dream pop band's presentation seems calibrated to channel a very specific, bygone era of British alternative music. They've even got a co-sign from ex-Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde, whose Bella Union imprint is releasing Patina in Europe. 

Thankfully, Tallies' slavish devotion to decades-old signifiers appears largely limited to aesthetics. Crackling with kinetic energy — due in no small part to muscular production by Holy Fuck's Graham Walsh — the songs on Patina are mostly unbound from the orbit of the band's dream pop forebears.

Patina follows and iterates on Tallies' 2019 self-titled debut, taming some of that album's psychedelic flourishes in favour of a slightly more sedate and holistic palette. And with nine songs clocking in at a brisk 34 minutes, the album is economical and exact. Sonically, the band relies on their signature commingling of chiming, jangly dream pop and gauzy shoegaze almost to a fault, though they pepper in just enough deviations and left turns to excite and reward.

One of these surprises is "Wound Up Tight," a low-key garage rock ripper and the scuzziest thing in the band's catalogue. Over a two-chord, stomping fuzz riff, vocalist Sarah Cogan admonishes someone for being "just a stitch in the fabric of our time," the song boiling over and dissolving into static-y feedback and laser-gun sound effects before the three-minute mark. The band smartly follows this up with "Catapult," a pure pop song featuring perhaps the album's most pristinely gorgeous melody; Cogan's voice gliding clear-eyed over guitarist Dylan Frankland's curlicue zephyrs in the chorus.

Later, "Special" moves from quietly propulsive verses that recall Japanese Breakfast to a rousing, distorted refrain whose ascending power-chord riff pulls from My Bloody Valentine's immortal "When You Sleep" in the most exhilarating way.

Patina even touches on dub-tinged electro-pop on late-album highlight "Memento," where Cogan's carefree lilt is laid atop a squelchy bass lope before a massive, bleary chorus crashes in. An utterly sublime, wobbly synth tone fills the space that would normally be occupied by the gossamer guitars, almost swallowing Cogan's repeated ear-worm mantra of "gotta get you out of your way now," just as a waterlogged guitar lick pierces the noise and announces a new verse.

All of these moments show that Cogan, Frankland and co. aren't rigid when it comes to their exploration of a codified and canonized genre like dream pop. And while their mesh of influences isn't exactly novel, Patina shows Tallies coming into their own as songwriters, capable of crafting warm, memorable music unbeholden to nostalgia.
(Hand Drawn Dracula)

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