Album Review: Confidence Man – Tilt

[Heavenly; 2022]

Returning after the increasing success of their 2018 album, Confident Music for Confident People, the Melbourne four-piece Confidence Man knew the only way forward was to double down and do what they do best: get your body moving. On their new album, Tilt (sometimes stylized as TILT, and probably unlikely to be ever seriously confused with the industrial avant 1995 Scott Walker album of the same name), the band have made an album for good times born from their own good times.

By “drinking and singing around a crappy microphone with bluetooth speakers at 5 o’clock in the morning,” the band came across self-professed gold over and over, birthing the tracks that would make up Tilt. The end result follows through with this communal, roundhouse atmosphere and energy: it’s easy to imagine singers Janet Planet and Sugar Bones tripping over themselves to take the lead and pitch their ideas into the mic. Planet though, the much more impressionable of the two singers, takes the wheel for most tracks though, from the sardonic and peacocky “Break It Bought It”, to the shrill “Angry Girl”, to the self-described “J-Lo slut-jam” “Toy Boy” .”Don’t call me the spark / I’m the fire and the flame, okay?”, she affirms on the opening track “Woman”.

What is a shame though is that the duo don’t settle to work together more. Despite Bones’ vocals on “What I Like” feeling a little flat on first glance, the combo of voices with the crowd-rousing summer-y strut makes for an irresistible moment of joy. Even better is first single “Holiday”, a slow burner of the album that nuzzles into the bleary 90s house influence across the album; when the synths fizzle in a moment alone, it feels like a euphoric memory drifting away in your brain. With its bustling rhythm, “Trumpet Song” also shows that the band can create a danceable moment without relying on vocals; you can practically hear the hiss of the smoke machines going off amidst the squelchy trumpet samples and handclaps.

There are fine, uninhibited moments of joy here (the jubilant, gospel-inspired “Feels Like A Different Thing” is definitely worth mentioning), but some more that will rest on your liking for Planet’s schtick. The joke and fake ending of “Angry Girl” gets wearying after a couple of listens (think LCD Soundsystem or CSS but with a prissy and off-putting demand for attention) while even the self-affirming spoken word of “Woman” leaves one wanting for more moments of instrumental focus. When Tilt loses steam in its final third (and an album with this much fun, festive energy was always going to), it begs for a momentary interlude to regroup – but the garish and superfluous 55 second “Kiss N Tell” isn’t the one it needs.

Confidence Man’s music is the kind that’s best just enjoyed and not dissected too much. That’s not a slight against them – there’s definite skill in their work, especially from deft beatmakers Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild – but rather a testament to how their focus on eliciting a good time response is so important. Tilt flourishes when you switch off your synapses and let go to the urge to dance. While the slower tempo numbers like “Luvin U Is Easy” or the Haiku Hands-like come on “Push It Up” might not stick in your memory the most of all the songs here, they are still jams that you want to move to.

Indeed, it’s incredibly easy to imagine a song such as “What I Like”, with its balearic swagger, sunshine-tinged brass, and infectious call and response, absolutely killing it with a summer festival crowd. The band thrive on this rousing energy; if they were a person in your life, they would be that friend that never fails to convince you to get up at an occasion and start dancing. Tilt is the music they are dragging you onto the dancefloor for, and with most of these songs playing over the speakers, you’ll happily join them.