I hadn’t had the opportunity to get out to a club show for a few months (unless somehow the Key Arena falls into your rather broad definition of “club”), but I made it out to Chop Suey here in Seattle at the beginning of the month to see Tancred, who had just released their new album, Out of the Garden, a couple of days earlier. Although I wasn’t familiar with Tancred a mere month earlier, I got to hear an advance copy of the album and as a result was more excited to see this show then I often am for bands I’ve been fans of for years. And that’s because Out of the Garden is easily going to make my Top 10 for 2016 — it’s been a while since I’ve heard such a consistently solid album. There’s really not a dud on it, and Tancred’s leading light, Jess Abbott, clearly has a vision for their sound that’s deeply rooted in all that was good about ’90s power pop. And for me, that can only mean good things.
A big assist in the overall sound of the album comes Abbott’s way from the production team of Anna Waronker of That Dog and Waronker’s husband Steven McDonald, best known for leading the great Redd Kross alongside his brother Jeff. She couldn’t have picked a better-suited pair for these songs — throughout I hear echoes of not only That Dog and Redd Kross, but also Liz Phair (who was in turn a notable influence on That Dog), Juliana Hatfield, Letters to Cleo, Veruca Salt (have I ever mentioned my love for Louise Post?), The Posies, and even touches of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. They’ve perfected the sound on this album to the point that if Tancred could hop in a time machine and release this exact album in 1995, it would have fit in perfectly and they would now be mentioned in the same breath as the best of the ’90s power pop bands. But of course they needed the influences from then to brew this thing up, so you know…the whole time travel paradox, right?
Anyway, I should also point out that the Chop Suey show was just as satisfying — Tancred is a trio led by Abbott, and they sounded just as great live as I would have hoped — high energy, great vocals and guitar from Abbott, and tight playing by the band all around. Abbott comes off as likably unassuming, lots of smiles with no attitude. As soon as she finished clearing their equipment from the stage, she hopped down to go work the merch table selling CDs and T-shirts. She seems very pleased to be out doing her thing, and that’s likely because she has spent the rest of her musical time the past few years playing behind Cacie Dalager in the band Now, Now — who as it turns out I also featured here, back in 2012 when their album Threads came out. Abbott definitely leans poppier than Dalager, and clearly needed to release her inner power pop, leading her to Tancred.
The song from Out of the Garden that I’m featuring here is “Poise,” which is simply an undeniable splash of catchiness that sums up the strengths of the album perfectly — and also highlights the dark lyrical matter running throughout the songs, at odds with the hummability of the tunes. Perfect balancing act, and if you like this song at all, you’ll love the rest of the album. Check it out!