Tilly and the Wall's tap-dancer percussionist may sound like a gimmick. But after listening to Tilly's latest, Bottoms of Barrels, you realize that the band replaces conventional drumming with staccato tap dancing for an important reason: It keeps them from getting unfavorably compared to Rilo Kiley or the New Pornographers.
Not surprisingly, keyboardist Nick White doesn't see it that way, choosing to describe his band's music as "weird like folk, pop kind of music with the tiniest, tiniest hint of country" as opposed to "mostly forgettable gimmick-pop."
That's probably too harsh, but when the label you're signed to is called Team Love, all your songs are written from an elementary school perspective and you name your album Bottoms of Barrels, for God's sake, then you have to expect some assholish music-critic cynicism.
Tilly and the Wall
Despite the countless "witticisms" Tilly's latest album title could inspire (e.g., so that's where they scraped their lyrics from), BoB is a decent enough album, pleasant and sort of catchy. Cuddly, peppy tunes like "Rainbows in the Dark" and "Bad Education" will have you grinning and nodding your head, but don't be surprised if you forget to put them on your iPod.
But that's okay. Tilly seems like the kind of band made for live shows because they have such a good time.
"We really just want to be putting on a show that's fun to watch," White says.
If nothing else, Jamie Williams's work as the tap-dancing percussionist achieves that goal. As conventional as most of the tap-rhythm songs sound on the album, seeing a tap dancer in the middle of a pop-rock band is a constant reminder of how awesomely ridiculous the whole idea is. Williams taps on a hollow wooden platform in the middle of a line of guitar-strumming indie kids. Not only that, she dresses like a tap dancer, looking like a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan who accidentally wandered on stage during a Le Tigre concert.
Sure, she's cute in those sparkly shoes, but Williams isn't just eye candy. Her quick feet make for some rhythms you'd have trouble programming into a drum machine, and at their best they make for quick and cheery songs so cute you might think that the Postal Service formed a supergroup with Starland Vocal Band.
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You can stop screaming now, that hasn't actually happened.
White says they know their music isn't for everybody, but they like to think everyone can enjoy their shows.
"We may not be right up your alley," he says, "but one of our main goals is to make sure you have a good time."
So Tilly might not change your life, but they might get you smiling. And, yes goddammit, tapping your feet.