Tortoise – Standards

2001 – Thrill Jockey Records


There is not a lot of information available about this album from the sleeve and liner notes. The inner sleeve is covered in words, but it doesn’t make much sense, it looks like a jumble of letters and numbers. If you look closely, you can make out the track list and the names of the band members, but that is about it. Research online doesn’t supply much information either, but it really isn’t necessary for enjoyment, this album speaks for itself musically. Tortoise is a band of supremely talented musicians who move around to play multiple instruments throughout each song. I love them, obviously, because of their heavy use of vibraphone, mallet instruments, and percussion. “Standards” is a little bit different than the albums that came before it in that it delves heavily into electronic sounds. The heavy grooves (from two drumsets at times, infectious bass-lines, and guitar riffs) are present as always, but seem to be elevated by the electronics. Seneca starts off the album with a literal bang of held out chords that morph into one of the funkiest beats I’ve ever heard (that one electronic reverbed out drumhit every few measures…oof). On Benway the classic Tortoise sound returns, with a vibraphone melody line set over a beautiful set of chords and groove. Monica is a song that I can’t believe hasn’t been sampled multiple times. The guitar riff over the drums seem to be asking to be used in other tracks. This album is perfect to put loudly on your speakers, sit down, and let it transport you away. Tortoise has always, and still does (over 25 years into their career), hit you with unexpected grooves and arrangements that defy tradition.  Their use of dynamics is another element that makes them special. Tortoise is one of my favorite bands of all time, take a listen and you will understand why.