Mixtapes and Cellmates - Rox (Tangled Up )

Trying to reinvent their sound, Mixtapes and Cellmates are back with a second album.

Released Apr 22nd, 2010 via Tangled Up / By Brendan Morgan
Mixtapes and Cellmates - Rox (Tangled Up ) Breaking free from the mellow Postal Service style of their 2007 debut, Rox is the Swedish band’s attempt to redefine themselves after a two year hiatus. It might seem at first that an increase of speed and volume is all they have to show for it but let’s not jump to conclusions. The record contains some of their best material to date.

Just as you’d find in the dream pop of The Daysleepers and Phoenix, there is an underlying teen thrill and sugar high to the sweet noise guitars, punchy drums and cymbal washes. Heavy tracks like ‘Soon’ and ‘Lies’ also reveal a smidgen of Alternative angst extracted from bands like Dinosaur Jr and Ash.

Robert Svensson’s lead voice has the same choked up fragility as Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst) or Death Cab for Cutie (Ben Gibbard), though it wears thin after too long. Thankfully Mixtapes and Cellmates is a shared project between two vocal talents: Svensson and Matilda Berggren. Their contrasting tones add dimension and compliment each other, like Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth.

Occasionally, Rox’s raw expression can be misconstrued as horrible Emo. Once the bright and engaging opening of ‘Never’ is left behind and the album enters its bumpy second phase after ‘Sunday’, Rox is not without its sickly sentimentality. Only a serious wimp would open a song with the line “I’m still shaking from when you touched me” but this sensitive group of dreamers and die hard romantics, wringing out their tiny little hearts over their songs should be allowed a few soul-bearing embarrassments. Hell, we let The Cure get away with it after all.

Shoegaze and the recent ‘nu-gaze’ revival contain within it the age-old search for the sublime; that brief few seconds of melancholy we all get from being overwhelmed by existence. Among the genre there are perhaps more deserving torch bearers than Mixtapes and Cellmates but Rox is still an honest, romantic album; of weakness in love, tortured partings and of repressed emotion finally breaking free. For the band, it is in one swift movement a severing of their past and a strong proclamation giving new life to their sound. The downside to Rox is its samey over-polished production, gasping pace and pop-piano embellishments – a hair’s width from Keane. So long as you know what to expect.