Tiny Moving Parts: breathe Album Review

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By Ethan Brown
Music Journalist

Artist: Tiny Moving Parts
Album: breathe
Label: Hopeless Records

Tiny Moving Parts are a midwestern emo band which is a mixture of indie and math rock drawing inspiration from the ’90s emo scene. It’s characterized by bright, open guitar sometimes referred to as “twinkly guitar.” As one of the few modern bands to confidently pioneer the world of math rock and pick tapping, Tiny Moving Parts have made their own stylized spin on emo music in a time when a lot of said music sounds so similar.

Tiny Moving Parts’ breathe marks their fifth full length album and was released by Hopeless Records. It feels almost like a form of intentional juxtaposition by the band to release this upbeat album on Friday, Sept. 13.

Tiny Moving Parts blew my feeble young mind in 2013 with This Couch is Long & Full of Friendship. It was one of the first times I had ever heard a band use that kind of guitar sound outside of a heavier context, and from my first listen I was instantly hooked by the musicianship. I was seemingly sucked into a dimension of admiration I was content with not leaving.

It’s a common issue for many bands to find the perfect middle ground between evolving their sound and keeping things the same for the sake of their listeners. Throughout breathe, I feel there are parts where the members wanted to experiment more with their sound, but allowed that desire to take a backseat to consistency with what’s familiar instead. 

I believe there were parts where they could have been more daring, and where they should have gone forward in what they were trying to do with more confidence. It’s in the moments where this band is most daring that makes me such an effortlessly proud listener. 

Track five for instance, “Vertebrae,” where towards the end Mattheisen pulls a banjo out of nowhere and starts laying into like he’s played on the swampy, stagnant bayou waters all his life. The banjo, in my opinion, elevated the song to a whole different tier of musicianship and gave a warm, folksy feel to air about the three midwestern boys.

It’s in those moments of pure unexpectedness that makes this band truly outstanding to me, and while I like this album as a whole, I do wish there were more of those pleasantly shocking moments. 

While listening to other tracks on the album, I found myself hearing guitar licks that were reminiscent of their past works. I can’t say for certain if Mattheisen’s reuse of similar guitar patterns was intentional for the sake of the listener, but I can say as a longtime supporter that it had an almost nostalgic effect on me. As if, for a moment, I fell through time and I remembered the way I felt years ago when hearing the same notes.

As an optimist, I choose to believe Mattheisen knew of the time traveling qualities powerful music can sometimes have, and he chose to make it that way rather than recycling other ideas.

One thing I noticed about this album is that it is an intentional stepback in intensity from their 2018 release Swell. To me, the band toned down their raw energy and shifted their focus to calmness with no loss in passion. 

I welcome the change on breathe. No one ever said that a band has to constantly one-up themselves in intensity and completely change their sound with each passing album. If a band decides to go softer with a new release, then it’s the responsibility of the listener to take into account what the musicians want to hear and make as well. 

Music making is an experience for the musicians and listeners alike, and it’s probably hard as hell to find that middle ground where everyone is going to be happy. With that being said, I know breathe won’t be everybody’s favorite album for its musical change or lack thereof, but I still stand by Tiny Moving Parts for putting out another solid release yet again. 

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