IN THE CULT TV series The X-Files, the nearby presence of UFOs causes an odd phenomenon. Symptoms include blinding white light, dead car engines, failed electricity, and the complete blackout of human memories—a disorienting time loss that’s reflected in frozen-handed clocks. This extraterrestrial bending of space and time serves as the inspiration for Tacocat’s newest record, Lost Time.
“It takes up a lot of time to write songs, to tour,” says Emily Nokes, the band’s lead singer (and former music editor for the Mercury’s sister paper, Seattle’s The Stranger). “You just start blending together the whole process of being in a band for eight years.”
Nokes is joined by Eric Randall (guitar), Lelah Maupin (drums), and Bree McKenna (bass). Lost Time is the band’s third studio album, a follow-up to 2014’s NVM and further confirmation that Tacocat is one of the best bands ever to blossom in Seattle. Nokes freely sings about messy periods, Plan B, mansplainers, and “human mosquitos” in the Area 51 of online comment sections, all in a conversational tone that de-stigmatizes these topics to the tune of sugar-fueled surf punk.
The album’s X-Files references don’t stop at the title; opening track “Dana Katherine Scully” is an ode to the show’s pragmatic and levelheaded female protagonist. “She’s totally the one that gets shit done,” says Nokes. The song heralds Scully as a feminist icon—she’s an FBI agent assigned to fact-check the beliefs of her partner, Fox Mulder, and acts as the voice of reason throughout the paranormal series. Nokes gushes, “She owns the contradiction/She separates the fact from fiction.”
“I remember watching when I was younger and being like, ‘Oh, she’s so serious,’” says Nokes. “But watching it later, as an adult woman, she’s definitely the math- and science-minded person and Mulder’s the one that’s the hysterical opposite, which is how women are [normally] portrayed. It’s really cool, I was looking up her character and discovered this thing called the Scully Effect—there was a definite spike around the time The X-Files were on; there were more young women going into math and science fields, and they were actually citing her.”
Though it’s imbued with playful sci-fi mysticism, Lost Time centers on the inescapably terrestrial, like the changes transforming Tacocat’s hometown. The record features twin tracks about the city, “I Love Seattle” and “I Hate the Weekend.” The first gleefully admits that, even in the face of the Northwest’s impending geological destruction, “Earthquake, tsunami, there’s still no place I’d rather be.”
The latter confronts devastation of a different nature, one that’s perhaps harder to live with day-to-day—the influx of the “business elite” who “paint the rainbow beige/Take down everything we made” as they aggressively overtake Capitol Hill, which has served as a hub for Seattle’s queer and artistic communities since the ’60s. As rents and luxury condos continue to rise in the neighborhood, Nokes describes feelings of claustrophobia and wonders, “How creative can a person be when you’re constantly holding a shield?”
“You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit” reclaims one-sided breakup narratives—Nokes bemoans the control an ex has, singing “I’m a mess, you’re amazing,” and fantasizes about a reunion so she can have a do-over: “Baby you should take me back/So that I can tell you that/Oh no, you’re not breaking up with me/Oh no, I’m breaking up with you, actually.” The album features another pair of complementary songs, “Talk” and “Men Explain Things to Me.” On the first, Nokes sings of wanting to “unwind the universe” and “talk until the neighbors knock” over spiky bristles of guitar, while the latter facetiously skewers male domination of spaces, including conversation: “We get it, dude/We’ve already heard enough from you/The turning point is overdue.”
But the record’s final three tracks wrap Tacocat in a cotton-candy cocoon that buffers them from the outside world—a sweet escape where “Horse Grrls” reign supreme and “Night Swimming” with friends is like a secret midnight baptism into a religion centered on self-care. If that’s true, “Leisure Bees” is its doo-wop mission statement (with an accompanying hand-clap secret handshake): “Take your time because/It’s your time to take/And the values that you want/Are the ones that you can make.”
Lost Time sucker-punches the nebulous cloud of life’s problems that don’t have clear solutions—how do you create things when you’re vulnerable, emotionally defend yourself from internet trolls, and raise your voice when someone else is trying to drown it out? Tacocat doesn’t claim to have all the answers. But these 12 songs inch closer to separating fact from fiction, and taking back time lost on the things and people that try to limit us.