The Los Angeles-based four-piece TÜLIPS was formed and is led by frontwomen Taleen Kali (vocals, guitar) and Angie Bloom (vocals, guitar, percussion) and also includes Miles Faster on bass and Travis Moore behind the drum kit. The self-described ‘riotgaze’ band blends the retro-styled, tuneful musical progressions and tiered vocal harmonies of sunny beach-pop with the grittier sound of noise-pop/post-punk-inspired distorted guitar and bass agitation and dynamic drum-work. TÜLIPS is releasing its 10-track debut album, Doom & Bloom, November 13th on Lolipop Records and will be touring California from mid-November to early December.
Taleen and Angie aren’t afraid to wear their collective heart on their sleeve lyrically and they intrepidly approach the subjects of desire, love, and relationships with a vulnerable to matter-of-fact to joyful openness. While the lyrics of all of the songs are sung in a sweet and direct manner, it’s still difficult to discern each exact word. The bright and melodic compositions and vocals (from both Taleen and Angie) are dirtied up by the noisy instrumental turmoil and, although the overall vibe is appealing, it becomes too frenetic over the course of the whole album. Most songs have a similar swaying, short-phrase structure, familiar guitar and drums instrumentation, and sing-song, sing-along vocal delivery.
“Vertigo” starts the album off on a lively note of acoustic guitar jangle, emphatically hit drum beat, and kinetic tambourine shake. Taleen (or is it Angie?) raises and dips her medium-range, but rich vocals through the upbeat sonics, as she decides to end a relationship because her other half wanted to wait to be together. At least that’s what can be surmised from what lyrics can be heard. For instance, Taleen/Angie recounts how the other person thinks “Patience is a virtue / No need to hurry…” and she despairs that “Your sentiment left me in shambles / High and dried up… / I couldn’t handle…”
The tantalizing, but discreetly sexy, Sleater-Kinneyesque “Hotspur” moves at a rapid clip as Taleen/Angie is swept away by love (or lust), cooing expressively in a vintage tone “My heart was empty.” amid the bass line grind, angular guitar line, and fast-paced drum beat. The romping drum beat of “Wait” is bolstered by hand clap percussion and a guitar line that mirrors the drum’s tempo. The song exudes a California sunshine aura as Taleen/Angie blithely sings the rueful lyrics “I’ve been racing around the world / for someone who has a clue.”
Shimmying lead single “Perfect Love” is perfectly riot grrrl-styled and a whole bunch of fun, from the exuberant, Kathleen Hanna-inspired yells and yelps to the scrambling guitar distortion, drum punctuation, and bashed cymbals. It’s short at under 2 minutes, but sharp and effectively engaging. The drifting “Dreamlover” calms it down for a while, applying a balm of measured, yet still active drum beat. Shimmering acoustic guitar chime and a reverb guitar line spin a starry web. On the chorus the guitars rise in unison as Taleen and Angie sing softly, but bittersweetly, with one intoning “Where you been? / It’s been a year since I’ve been countin’…” and the other emoting wordlessly in a crestfallen, cascading register.
The band then gets right back on kick-ass track with “Evil Eye”, kicking up a riotous racket of propulsive guitar lines, hard-hit drum beats, and crashing cymbals with Taleen/Angie spiritedly wailing away at the forefront. The optimistic sonics of fast-strummed acoustic guitar lines, drums and cymbals stimulation, and shaken tambourine on “Pretty Girls” belies the disheartening lyrics of “I know about lonely / I talk to myself.” Taleen/Angie bemoan the fact that “pretty girls” don’t give a damn about her (“Pretty girl wouldn’t look my way / if I was on fire” and “I ain’t got your eye.”). The winsome vocal harmonies shared between Taleen and Angie evoke1990s jangle-pop bands Talulah Gosh and Heavenly (the common denominator being band member Amelia Fletcher).
TÜLIPS rocks it out on the tumultuous, Spinnerette-like “Queen’s Arms”, charging down the road with blistering, careening guitar lines, a choppy drum beat, wild whoops, expressive, distorted, riot grrrl exclamations – and of course just a bit of hit cow bell. The words are buried in the noise, so it’s hard to hear what’s being shouted, except for the repeated phrase “I don’t care.” The instrumentally frantic “Jitterbug” continues the agitated pace, laying down a diving, shining, surf-pop-like guitar line amid a wash of white noise midway through the number. Last track “Hopefully Hopefully” strolls with a more relaxed pace as two guitar lines loop around the jittery drums, scintillating cymbals, and tambourine flutter. Taleen/Angie swings in with a sweet murmur on the lyrics “…my flame into the fire with you / …with you I burn.” Her heart is on full display for all to see, and hear, when she declares simply, but sincerely “I love you / I do.” There is much to like on Doom & Bloom, and even some to love whole-heartedly.