Friday, July 21, 2017

Food Flavored Album Review: Recharge by the Tambo Rays

The first time I experienced Larabars was at the finish line of a half marathon. The company sent someone to hand out samples. I grabbed a handful, scarfed them down, remember liking them and then moved on. Years later, those little bars began showing up in grocery stores. Every time I thought about purchasing a box, I'd look at the price and head the other direction. Those bars, in all their plant based and gluten free glory, were definitely not cheap. To combat the drain on my wallet, I did what most adventurous kitchen types would do, I started making my own version..

Then Larabar brought out a new line of products called Larabar bites. These were essentially the bars rolled into truffle like bites. So, I started making them too. Recently I've become enamored with the double chocolate brownie bites. These bites consist of just six ingredients: dates, cocoa, dark chocolate chips, coconut flour, almonds and sea salt. In my kitchen I added a seventh, coconut shreds. To make the bites just stuff all these ingredients into a food processor and pulse until they become tiny bits. Then add a little water, pulse a few more times and voila, start rolling chocolate snowballs. While working out the logistics of this recipe, I listened to the new Tambo Rays EP, Recharge (released on July 17th via OIM Records). Both the bites and the Tambo Rays EP had a lot in common.

Recharge kicks off with the upbeat, sun soaked, pop rock of "Yes and No." According to the band it is a song about letting go of old habits, the uncertainty of wandering through new territory and confronting the difficulties that arise from leaving behind the safety net of the status quo. Hmm...sun soaked, letting go of the status quo, releasing old habits. Sounds a bit like coconut flour if you ask me. Coconut flour is born and bred from a fruit that hangs out on a tree that is found in tropical, sun soaked climates. In the bites that I created, the coconut flour took the place of traditional flour. It can be tough to let go of white flour, and it certainly is the road less traveled, but sometimes it can be so worth it. These bites were one of those times.

Recharge's second track, "Always Down" embraces the same sort of glimmering pop as "Yes and No" but the lyrics hint at something a bit more melancholy. "Always Down" was written about being there and supporting a friend who is dealing with some dark days. The necessary support is most apparent in the lines "And I'll always be there for you, situations unknown, and I'll always be there for you, to take you where you want to go to." These lines are ambiguous in the sense that they allow the darkness to remain unnamed. When a friend says they need you, it doesn't really matter what the situation is, you go. And if they need you to take them somewhere, again, the destination isn't relevant, you drive until they are satisfied. Satisfaction, underlying darkness. Not only do these words describe, "Always Down" but they could just as easily represent the chocolate chips and cocoa powder found in this recipe.

"Wrong Turn" takes the adage go big or go home and makes it reality. This isn't just a pop song. It is a sonic, tilt-a-whirl of wavy synths, moody percussion and sexy guitars. These elements provide a stylized base to prop up Sara DaMert's emotive lyrics. "Wrong Turn" is the second most evocative track on Recharge. Long after the EP fades to silence, the lines and sounds of "Wrong Turn" remain in your brain like little earworms of enthrallment. The Medjool dates used for these bites are every bit as enthralling, moody and evocative as "Wrong Turn." Medjools, because of their elevated status in the date world are often referred to as kings, diamonds or crown jewels. Not sure you can get more enthralling than that. They have a rich, sweet taste that brings to mind differing food moods like caramel, honey or cinnamon.

What ties these chocolate bites together is the almonds. The "almonds" of Recharge is the closer, "Get It Right Now." This track is the most evocative of the lot because it combines aspects of each of the previous tracks. "Get It Right Now" features some of the same sonic elements as "Wrong Turn," the upbeat, sun soaked pop of "Yes and No" and the underlying melancholy of "Always Down." Its chorus seems to say that despite the fact that you are going through or have previously gone through some tough moments, time will heal those wounds ("To fall in love it just takes time"). Same with those pesky almonds. Pulse a bit and try to roll these bites and you'll be met with the tough almond exterior. But give it some time, pulse a bit more and you'll wind up with an easily moldable nutty treat.

Recharge by the Tambo Rays and Double Chocolate Brownie Bites have a number of things in common. Ultimately what stands out is the staying power of each. This staying power is created in both of these by combining catchy immediacy with a subtle and brilliant nuance.