After four years of no releases, Tilly And The Wall return with Heavy Mood on Conor Oberst’s Team Love. But it’s a misleading title: Tilly packs the usual whoa-ohs and choruses sung in unison, so at no point in the album is the mood heavy.
In fact, unlike their Omaha-based peers (see: Saddle Creek gang), Tilly And The Wall are not known for their moodiness. Tap-dancing percussion (no exaggeration here) and cheeky electronics have always instilled a lighthearted feel to Tilly’s buoyant indie pop. Accordingly, Heavy Mood‘s raucous opener, “Love Riot,” is explosive in a very Tilly way—almost like 2008 single “Pot Kettle Black.” The title track comes next and keeps the energy strong with a pounding beat and electronic, highly danceable weirdness.
It’s good to see that Tilly And The Wall have stayed true to themselves through years of so many changes. Between 2008’s O and Heavy Mood, the Tilly family has grown: Three members (Derek Pressnall, Jamie Williams Pressnall, and Kianna Alarid Cameron) got married and had kids. On this album, the band has also expanded its extended family: Heavy Mood features fellow Omahans Clark Baechle from the Faint and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, as well as Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
The third track, “All Kinds Of Guns,” takes a spin toward retro. A keen ’50s vibe comes to life through the wailing harmonies and clever lyrics like, “My baby’s got all kinds of guns/And he sticks to every one.” Like the last slow dance of the night at a sock hop, you don’t want this track to end. Luckily, it’s followed by “Static Expression,” a lush pop song with a pinch of tenderness. A rolling backbeat and the repeated line “We cannot stay this way forever” make this one just as memorable as its predecessor.
Midway through Heavy Mood, Tilly hits a lull; “Hey Rainbow” and “I Believe In You” just don’t pack the eclectic Tilly punch. They’re atmospheric and pretty, but these songs are very low key. Almost diluted, these tracks are missing the fierce fearlessness that’s been injected into the best parts of the album.
The pace picks back up with aggressively positive ender “Defenders.” This stay-true-to-yourself anthem of sorts is chanted and reinforced by a choir of kids. It makes an absolutely bold ending for this band that—through time off, marriage and babies—remains its boisterously quirky self.