Tilly and the Wall and the Rhythm of the Feet

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Tilly and the Wall.

Tilly and the Wall. hide caption

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Tilly and the Wall is an Omaha, Neb., indie-rock band named after the well-known children's book. According to critic Will Hermes, their music has a childlike wonder and breathlessness — perhaps most evident in their percussion, which comes mainly from tap-dancing.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Tilly and the Wall may be best known as a children's book about a curious mouse who imagines what beautiful things live on the other side of a brick wall in the meadow. But this Tilly and the Wall is an indie-rock band from Omaha, Nebraska.

And, according to music critic Will Hermes, the band's music has a childlike wonder and breathlessness. It's most evident in the percussion, which comes mainly from tap dancing.

(Soundbite of Tilly and the Wall)

WILL HERMES reporting:

As pop music gimmicks go, having a beautiful woman tap dancing through most of your songs is at least as good as employing a gospel choir or replacing your base guitar with a tuba. But for Tilly and the Wall, tap dancing is more than just a novelty.

(Soundbite of Tilly and the Wall)

HERMES: Tilly and the Wall writes spectacularly joyful pop songs about how desperately hard it is to be joyful. The song lyrics deal with violence and prejudice, poverty and war and how joy isn't a passive experience. You got to work for it, struggle for it constantly, even when your legs are aching.

So as a metaphor, tap-dancing works pretty well.

Tilly and the Wall's 2004 debut Wild Like Children, was great but it seemed like a one-off, a curiosity. Yet their latest, Bottoms of Barrels, was even better. A perfect summer record. It revisits many of the same themes as their first record, like sexual coming of age, which is a time-tested summer theme. But it expands the group's musical palette, as with this song, which borrows from the world's foremost tap-dancing song form, flamenco.

(Soundbite of Tilly and the Wall)

HERMES: Tilly and the Wall come from Omaha, whose indie rock scene was loudly hyped a couple of years after the breakout success of the scene's favorite son, Connor Oberst of the band Bright Eyes.

Tilly and the Wall record for Oberst's own Team Love label. And while Omaha bands haven't all lived up to the hype, Tilly are proof that there's still something special in the city's artistic community. In fact, it was Omaha's Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts that helped the band created the new record by making them the first rock band ever accepted into their Artists and Residents Program.

I guess that as a civic-minded bunch, they decided any group that promote joy as fiercely as Tilly and the Wall deserve their support.

Me? I couldn't agree more.

NORRIS: The latest album from Tilly and the Wall is called Bottoms of Barrels. It was reviewed by Will Hermes.

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