Tiny Moving Parts’ last album, Swell, was awarded a spot on Stereogum’s 2018 midyear best albums list. I wrote about it there, and I’m gonna start off here by repurposing from that document these sentences:
“Twinkle” is a pretty uncool name for an indie-rock subgenre, even if it has a certain onomatopoeic honesty: There is perhaps no better word to describe the sound of such guitars. Tiny Moving Parts do this stuff better than anybody else right now, and when they’re tapping the fretboards and jumping between time signatures, these songs are absolutely sparkling.
One year later: I stand by all the above. As genre names go, “twinkle” is not as cool as, say, “grindcore” or “riot grrrl.” But a bunch of bands that play in that style can flat-out shred, because shredding is essential to the music.
Tiny Moving Parts are a power trio comprising guitarist/vocalist Dylan Mattheisen, bassist/vocalist Matthew Chevalier, and drummer Billy Chevalier. They’re from Minnesota. Their music sounds like third-wave emo, but their roots are in second-wave emo (exegesis here). In simplest terms: Their songs are catchy as hell — like Weezer-catchy — but underneath the humongous melodies are structures and performances worthy of, like, Origin. I mean, OK, no, maybe not Origin, but this is face-melting stuff.
Mattheisen in particular is a beast. I have no idea how he stands on stage and plays these licks by himself while also singing. And his tapping — the stuff that makes these songs sound like they’re actually twinkling — is so sick. It’s like … well, firstly, assuming you’re not entirely familiar with guitar-wonk terminology: Tapping is a frenetic, kinetic, pyrotechnic style of playing made famous by Eddie Van Halen on his band’s 1977 instrumental track “Eruption.” “Eruption” is barely a song — in context, it functions as the intro to “You Really Got Me,” which was the first single ever released by Van Halen. Which means it was “You Really Got Me” that introduced Van Halen to the world. But it was “Eruption” that introduced EVH-style tapping to the world, and not coincidentally, “Eruption” is the most important piece of music ever produced by Van Halen.
Most truly great fretboard-tappers are, like, Joe Satriani/Buckethead types; they rarely intersect with the mainstream. But you’ve heard the style plenty; you know what it sounds like. You know it from Randy Rhoads’ solo in Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” (a little after the 2:40 mark). You also know it from, um, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers theme song, “Go Go Power Rangers” (pretty much the whole thing, weirdly). My favorite guitar player on Earth is this guy from Massachusetts named Dave Pino. Pino is Andrew W.K.’s axeman these days, but he also played/plays in the lost-classic bands Damone and Waltham, and if you wanna hear just pure joyous tap-ripping (tripping?) over gigantic riffs and perfect power-pop melodies, you should check out Pino on Damone’s “Up To You” — one of my favorite solos ever, I think — and Waltham’s “Everything I Want” (right around the 2:25 mark in both songs, oddly).
Tiny Moving Parts do something similar, i.e., “pure joyous tap-ripping over gigantic riffs and perfect power-pop melodies.” But Mattheisen doesn’t just solo; he drops fire licks into pretty much every space he can find in any given piece of music, and it’s so much fun to hear him do it. Tiny Moving Parts have recently signed to Hopeless Records, and today they’re announcing their next album with a new song. The follow-up to Swell is called Breathe and the new LP’s lead single is called “Medicine.” If you love the sound of guitars like I do, you should check it. Trust me, there’s WAY more where these came from.
Breathe is out 9/13 via Hopeless. Pre-order it here. Track list as follows:
01. “The Midwest Sky”
02. “Light Bulb”
04. “Icicles (Morning Glow)”
06. “Polar Bear”
07. “Bloody Nose”
08. “Soft Spot”
09. “I Can’t Shake”