By any measurement, it’s been a long path travelled for Minnesota’s Tiny Moving Parts. After eleven years and six albums, the self-described family band are now gearing up to release their seventh; a twinkly breath of fresh air fittingly titled breathe.
Arriving on September 13, breathe is set to appease much of the band’s loyal fanbase, yet for some, it’s potentially poised to be their most divisive yet. But at its core, the album represents everything enjoyable about Tiny Moving Parts – and so much more.
The album’s opening track, “The Midwest Sky” seems to pick up from exactly where the band’s previous album, Swell, left off. From the opening line, in which vocalist Dylan Mattheisen proclaims “I could see your smile shine brightly through the window”, breathe feels euphoric despite the gloom that is quickly channelled throughout the lyrics of its songs.
On first listen, what really stands out about the trio’s newest exploit is that like many of their contemporaries, the band have made room to incorporate pop influences into their songs. Although while hard to miss, the subtlety in which these elements are introduced within songs like “Icicles”, and then carried throughout the remaining tracks of breathe allow the use of effects and synth to not feel forced or unnecessary by any means.
Furthermore, breathe paints the most dynamic and diverse portrait of Tiny Moving Parts that listeners have ever seen, and not just for its integration of pop-fuelled sections. Songs like “Light Bulb” seem to embrace a more rock focused sound than ever before, while “Medicine” wouldn’t feel out of place on any of the band’s previous albums. Yet, for all its adventurous spirit, breathe seems to strike a perfect balance between where the band have come from and where they’re headed, with songs like “Hallmark” the perfect vessels in conveying this.
It’s for these reasons that breathe truly feels like the three-piece’s broadest effort yet and consequently, it doesn’t seem to have a laser focus on a single sound like previous Tiny Moving Parts have held. Don’t get me wrong though, change doesn’t have to be a bad thing and it’s what possibly makes breathe the group’s strongest effort yet. For those who enjoy the glitter soaked guitar, the chunky bass and booming drums, don’t fret – it’s all still there! It’s the addition of everything from synths to banjo that makes breathe so multi-layered and vibrant.
And in case my listing of all the things that have changed has you worried, there’s a lot that hasn’t. Despite its exploratory nature, breathe embodies everything fans have come to know and love about Tiny Moving Parts. Thematically the album explores the small yet significant victory that can come from something as simple as taking a step back to breathe. Its title, breathe, is literal in the sense that Mattheisen found a remedy for chronic panic attacks in the form of controlled breathing.
To me, Tiny Moving Parts has always been about seeing the light through the dark, and if that was one of the goals of breathe, then they’ve succeeded yet again. The band’s efforts to frame issues of mental health and mental illness in an optimistic manner shouldn’t be understated, because it’s what truly allows this band to be held in such high regard by so many people. Within every song, the undying spirit that defines this band burns brighter than ever. breathe really feels like the sonic embodiment of starlight, with all ten tracks sparkling in their own individual way and we’re lucky enough to bask in their radiance.
Despite the optimistic lens that the album’s themes are seen through, there’s a destructive realism that truly balances the album. It isn’t an album that trivialises or glorifies trauma and pain, nor is it a celebration of hardship – yet there’s a glowing hopefulness that through adversity we can all make it through to the other side. Incredibly, it’s not just lyrically that this message is borne, with the album’s instrumentals equally as contributory to the positivity that resonates through all of breathe.
And just as the album’s opening moments picked up where the band last left off, the closing moments of breathe’s final track “Hallmark” feel like the perfect summation of everything that the album represents. The song explores the struggle of losing a loved one to terminal illness and the seemingly futile power of ‘get well soon’ cards. The album’s closing line (“An envelope could never fix you, but it’s strange how I like to think so”) expresses that even in the darkest of times, there is never truly an absence of light – and to me that is what breathe is about.
While breathe is undoubtedly the band’s most audacious effort yet, it genuinely seems to achieve the clearest sense of identity that Tiny Moving Parts has ever had. breathe is heartbreak and happiness, and it is gut-wrenchingly heartwarming. It is undeniable evidence for why this band is adored by so many, and it is set to be the reason why many more fall in love with the sparkly brand of emo-math rock that the band represent.
I’ve cried so much that I think I’m dehydrated.
I truly tried to find a reason not to give this album a 10 but I couldn’t. It feels like the band's most whole effort yet and the way that the band have embraced so many new influences without losing any sense of what them so special is truly incredible.