Last year, midwest family band Tiny Moving Parts burst onto the dreadfully-named “emo revival” scene with their explosive debut album This Couch is Long and Full of Friendship. The album brought countless days of touring for the young three-piece, hitting just about every state in the nation, spreading their intense and impressive work. The band caught the attention of Triple Crown Records (once home to The Receiving End of Sirens, As Tall As Lions, and a little underground band by the name of Brand New) and they signed soon after. The result? An earnest sophomore record which shows more of the band than fans could ever think possible.
There is no denying that some fans of Tiny Moving Parts will immediately dislike this record. There was a good chance that I would be one of them had I not heard singles “Always Focused” and “Boxcar” beforehand. As written in my review of the latter track, Tiny Moving Parts are switching up their sound in subtle, yet noticeable ways on Pleasant Living. Frontman/guitarist extraordinaire Dylan Mattheisen is adding (not “changing”) melodies and harmonies to his vocal delivery, thus making the grand product of his and his cousins’ instrumentations and lyrics more fulfilling to the listener and even more fun to sing along.
Opener “Sundress” sounds like it could be the older brother of This Couch opener “Dakota” (both referencing high school; a seemingly simpler time). Lead single “Always Focused” shows the first taste we had of the record, with an impressive reaction when played live in the past few months. Things really switch up on “I Hope Things Go the Way I Hope”, which finds Mattheisen and bassist/vocalist Matthew Chevalier singing quite well together. “Whiskey Waters” is one of the record’s highlights, complete with an insatiably catchy chorus. The standout tracks have to go to “Skinny Veins” and second single “Boxcar”. “Skinny Veins” begins so quickly and the vocals soar. This track is also the one in which drummer Bill Chevalier shines the most; it is one of, if not the best song in the band’s catalog as it showcases all three members beautifully. Album closer “Van Beers” is another highlight, touching on the beauties of touring, complete with an appropriate emo trumpet and quasi-gang vocals.
After about my tenth play-through, I kept thinking back to a statement made by fellow “revivalists” A Great Big Pile of Leaves comparing their own two albums. In it, they stated that their debut, Have You Seen My Prefrontal Cortex?, was more of a “show-off” record, showcasing the “look what we can do” style of incredibly technical music rather than fully-fleshed songwriting, which was shown very well on their sophomore album You’re Always on My Mind. The same thing is happening with Tiny Moving Parts and Pleasant Living. It is a major growth for the band and a step forward that they seemingly did not even need.
Pleasant Living is available now through Triple Crown Records.