For a band that routinely delves into topics like anxiety, self-esteem, and social ineptitude, Tiny Moving Parts never seem to care too much about what anyone thinks of them. After releasing emotional, melodic math-rock epic This Couch Is Long & Full of Friendship in 2013, the band decided to go a completely different direction on the following year’s Pleasant Living — a poppier song structure, sung vocals, and less of the twinkly guitar madness they’d become infamous for, drove away some hardcore fans, while bringing in a slew of new ones.
Such drastic changes aren’t as plentiful on Celebrate, Tiny Moving Parts’s second release on emo tastemaker Triple Crown Records, but as artists obsessed with the idea of growth and maturation, the three-piece undoubtedly have come up with new ways to expand their horizons. The most notable example of this lies within the often referred to dichotomy between the emotionally volatile nature of their music and how they present themselves to the public, especially vocalist/guitarist Dylan Mattheisen’s trademark happy-go-luckiness.
The clear divide between the two has for years maintained urban legend and jumping off point status among fans and the media, respectively. For years, anyone who’s tried to dig beyond the typical “what’s up with that?” have been stonewalled with typical responses about personal growth and honesty, yet the suspicion still remained that something bigger lurked beneath the surface. Celebrate smashes any assumption of the sort to pieces, bridging the gap between Mattheisen’s wistful, “woe is me” lyrics and carefree persona with the realization that the best way to not overthink everything is to force oneself to live for now. In short, Tiny Moving Parts are finally trying to stop worrying and enjoy it while it lasts — hence the album’s title.
Album opener “Good Enough” illustrates this perfectly. “I’ve been searching for something to keep me warm / To help me sleep at night”, Mattheisen desperately shout-sings, breathing honest life into a line that reads as a tired cliche. This cry for help is answered by the song’s capstone lyric “There’s blood on my flannel, courage in my flask / Every move onward, we’ll never look back”, concisely creating a basic thematic framework for the record as a whole.
Each successive track helps build on this outline in its own way, little by little — “Happy Birthday” is an ode to living life to the fullest, “Common Cold” illustrates social anxiety and the feelings of desperation that come with it, and “Minnow” shows Mattheisen putting a positive spin on feeling purposeless and lost. This isn’t to say that Celebrate lacks the moments of despondency Tiny Moving Parts have become known for, it’s obvious on first listen that they’ve returned here in spades. However, each of those moments is capped by a more hopeful rationalization of circumstances in the same vein as the one on “Good Enough”. Unlike much of the band’s previous work, negativity isn’t allowed to have the last laugh.
The instrumentation on the record, however, draws a little more from older material. The mathematical intensity that was decidedly subdued on Pleasant Living returns here, and with it returns the spontaneous moments of musical color fans crave. While their first two LPs were distinctly different in instrumental style, the band reaches a comfortable middle ground on Celebrate. Mixing pop sensibility with phrases of unpredictability, they’ve created a sound that showcases everything they do well at once. “Breathe Deep” is a great example, as it opens with ten solid seconds of maddening delay pedal wizardry but eventually settles into a solid groove by the time the verse begins. Credit must be given to drummer Billy Chevalier here — he’s just as comfortable kicking the band forward through more chaotic sections as he is playing simple pocket grooves.
All in all, Celebrate is a leap forward in every possible category. It may not reach the level of striking catharsis or impact of their early discography, but it shows the band trying to push even further forward after a second LP that was seen by many as a departure from what made them great. Hitting their stride instrumentally while creating possibly their most thematically sound record to date, Tiny Moving Parts have taken their biggest step yet toward creating a style that suits every aspect of what they’re trying to achieve. So long as they stay true to themselves, it can’t be far off.
Emo | Triple Crown Records