Tape Deck Heart - album review by Jonathan, Teen Blogger
As far as singer-songwriters go, Tape Deck Heart is a bit of a strange album from a strange source. Frank Turner is an English guitarist and singer whose genre is best described as “Folk Punk.” To be more specific, Turner infuses his simple, acoustic songwriting style with the energy and brutal honesty of punk rock. That’s a combination that’s a bit tricky to pull off properly, but when it’s done right it creates music that’s hard-hitting, emotional, and downright fun to listen to. Other times, however, it just doesn’t come together properly and feels lacking in both the Folk and Punk departments.
The album starts with “Recovery,” and I would be hard pressed to name a better opening song for the album than this. It starts with a simple guitar part and melody, and suddenly escalates into a flurry of folksy music with all the energy of a Rise Against concert. It expertly presents a vibe of aggressive positivity; a sound that says “I have a problem and I’m going to get better, even if it kills me!” That’s something that I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone execute quite as well as Frank Turner. It sets the tone for the entire rest of the album, while still being a very good song in its own right.
Many songs later on the album echo “Recovery” in different ways. “Four Simple Words” alternates between a laid back country ballad and a punk rock anthem. “Plain Sailing Weather” is a beautiful manifestation of pure frustration in song form. “Polaroid Picture” is a slower-paced song about nostalgia and trying to enjoy good things while they last. Each of these songs blends together a huge instrumentation of guitars, pianos, and drums, all while Turner’s voice passionately sings with the perfect amount of rawness in his voice. However, the most impactful moments on the album are the ones where all of this is stripped down to little else than a guitar and vocals. It leaves nothing between the listener and the raw emotion of the song, creating songs like “Tell Tale Signs” and “Broken Piano” that may very well leave you on the verge of tears.
Lyrically, Frank Turner’s style is best described as, well…frank. He uses a lot of blunt imagery and the occasional metaphor to quickly get his point across to the listener. Turner has a tendency to cram many syllables into one run-on sentence, making it sound almost like he’s talking more than singing. This leads to some well-crafted lyrics that offer instantaneous spikes in emotion. Some of my favourites are “the sing-a-longs go on but they’re singing different songs in rooms that we don’t know on the other side of the city” (Polaroid Picture) and “you know your life is heading in a questionable direction when you’re up for days with strangers and you can’t remember anything except the way you sounded when you told me you didn’t know what I should do.” (Recovery).
Sadly, for every song that Tape Deck Heart does right, there seems to be another that just doesn’t come together as well. “Losing Days” attempts to continue the sound that “Recovery” started, but it takes too long to build up to its full potential. “Anymore” and “Oh Brother” both reuse themes and songwriting tactics explored earlier in the album, making them feel like watered down versions of previous songs. While the album does have some very, very good songs on it, it fails to keep that momentum going over the whole runtime, stumbling every few songs before regaining its balance.
In the end, Tape Deck Heart is a very good album. For its high points alone I would very much recommend listening to it. The songs that are executed properly create a unique, enjoyable, and emotional whirlwind of music, even if the album's low points keep it from being truly great as a whole.