Ye olde sophomore slump. We see it in sports, movies (in the form of sequels), television, and uhhhh college freshmen. Whatever. But in music, it’s a fucking doozy. You never know what you are going to get in a second album from up and coming bands–and the second album usually maps out a band’s future (there are definitely cases where third albums do bands in–The Shins come to mind immediately). Remember the second effort from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? OUCH that thing sucked.

May sees the releases of sophomore albums from a pair of bands fairly highly touted by the Louder Pussycat staff: Tapes ‘n Tapes and The Black Angels. We’ve heard ’em. And it’s a prime example of what can go right and what can go wrong with album numero dos. Tapes ‘n Tapes released Walk it Off today, and The Black Angels release Directions To Seek a Ghost on May 13.

Tapes \'n Tapes

I know Walk it Off is technically Tapes’ third album, but for the sake of argument let’s ignore the self-titled self-released record. A follow-up album isn’t just a second album, it’s the follow-up to their breakout record. Some jackass here said The Loon (the aforementioned breakout album) was one of the best debut records of the last decade–and this jackass still firmly believes that. It was budding with potential, lo-fi-ish, and homegrown.

Not so much with Walk it Off. Where Tapesx2 took chances with The Loon and delivered indie pop with eccentricities, Walk it Off sounds like they mailed it in and wrote all the songs within a week or two. It’s such a safe album it pretty much throws everything that made Tapesx2 great in the first place. There’s nothing that compares to the blissful comedown that is Omaha, nothing weird and out there like Jakov’s Suite. Just a bunch of ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Below are two songs that made The Loon great and two of the better songs from Walk it Off. Anyone else miss the redheaded bass player?
Old (my Loon files are mp4s and won’t play on your computer…sorry! Here are earlier songs):
Tapes ‘n Tapes–Icedbergs
Tapes ‘n Tapes–50’s Parking
New:
Tapes ‘n Tapes–Le Ruse
Tapes ‘n Tapes–Hang Them All

The Black Angels. Looking all cool.

On the other side of things, The Black Angels roared out of the gate with Passover. Great psych-rock from Austin, Texas. Dark driving guitar-scapes with pounding drums…sure The Warlocks were doing the same thing, but The Black Angels added their own spice to the sound.

With Directions to Seek a Ghost, they’ve stayed very close to their formula but added two things I fucking love–more tripped-out effects and depth. The songs are a bit longer, which is absolutely perfect for their sound, and the eight-and-a-half-minute Never/Ever may be their best work to date. What’s more, it’s fully listenable front to back–no real filler at all.

By working on top of the foundation they laid on Passover, The Black Angels actually expanded their sound whereas Tapes stripped themselves down.
Old:
The Black Angels–Young Men Dead
The Black Angels–Black Grease
New:
The Black Angels–Doves
The Black Angels–Never/Ever

Tapes ‘n Tapes are touring with White Denim, and The Black Angels are touring with The Warlocks.