In 2006, when the members of Takka Takka were making the rounds in the wide-open world of the blogosphere with about another 14,000 bands (hey, remember Birdmonster?), they were often lost in a post-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah shuffle. And for good reason: Their 2006 self-released album, We Feel Safer at Night (later picked up for distribution in 2007 by Ernest Jenning), was a sedate lump of Lou Reed-influenced acoustic-rock posturing, with oblique lyrics that tackled tough topics, such as the war in Iraq, from uber-safe distances (“Enough”).
That’s all fit to change with the Brooklyn fivesome’s sophomore album, Migration. Gone are the nasally vocals, the acoustic strum-alongs, and the self-righteous lyrics, and in their place are polyrhythmic sketches reminiscent of the African-inspired work of Brian Eno, David Byrne, and Paul Simon.
A running synth line opens the album’s first track, “Monkey Forest Road,” as a dreary muck slowly envelops the track. Even when the song begins to build into a potential anthem, the band pull back from an easy chorus opportunity they would have relished on Safer at Night in favor of building the song’s overall sonic texture.
If Migration has a theme, that’s it: A band that used to shoot for big, sloppy “moments” have now decided they’re into more than cheap thrills. From the somber desolation of lead single “The Takers,” the punk-funk breakdown of “Homebreaker,” and the jungle percussion of “Fall Down Where You Stand” and “Everybody Say,” Takka Takka prove they have more in them than limp folk-rock.
Migration’s main problem is that Takka Takka aren’t as exciting a band as the ones they’re trying to pay homage to. Songs like the National-lite “Change No Change,” closer “You and Universe,” and the stilted “One Foot in the Well” fail to create much more than run-of-the-mill Barnes & Noble rock. A pair of instrumentals (“The Optimists Were Right” and “The Optimists Were Wrong”) are worse than filler: They’re two directionless, pointless pieces of sub-Explosions in the Sky instrumental rock.
It’ll be interesting in the coming months as bands that hit the blogs in ’06 (and were then subject to the first instances of blog-lash) start making the rounds with their sophomore albums (welcome back, Cold War Kids). Will those bands try to appease the people who trashed their debuts after lauding their EPs, or will they shoot for wider appeal, leaving the blogs behind?
In Takka Takka’s case, they’ve eliminated the more annoying and weak nuances of their debut and introduced some newfound confidence and some newfound problems. Is that not progress?
Takka Takka might not have the name recognition of other hip Brooklyn bands of the moment, but the art-rock outfit is definitely all about that scene. Migration, the band's sophomore album (after 2007's We Feel Safer at Night), was produced by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah drummer Sean Greenhalgh. Greenhalgh's bandmate Lee Sargent guests on the album, as does Bryan Devendorf of the National, Charles Burst and Olga Bell. Some of the album's Eastern sounds were inspired by singer Gabe Levine's mother's recent adoption of traditional Balinese religion. The world-music feel that influence produced is reminiscent of music from the likes of David Byrne, Joe Strummer, Paul Simon and even the neo-classical leanings of Philip Glass.
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