Tigers Jaw

Charmer

Written by: PP on 15/07/2014 20:36:39

After releasing two critically acclaimed albums that quickly achieved cult status within those in the know, Tigers Jaw unexpectedly announced a partial split of the band with singer Adam McIlwee, bassist Dennish Mishko, and drummer Pat Brier going on hiatus for personal reasons leaving behind only keyboardist and female vocalist Brianna Collins and guitarist Ben Walsh. The scene reacted in shock and disbelief over one of the most cherished bands of the modern indie-flavored emo movement, as these two albums helped define the sound for what is basically the entirety of Count Your Lucky Stars roster nowadays. It's still confusing what the hell is going on with Tigers Jaw in terms of touring in the future, but it seems that at least for the time being, the three guys are back in the band to record more studio material. Hence we stand here with "Charmer", their third full-length and one that is quintessentially a Tigers Jaw record sound wise, but a somewhat different one at that as we shall see.

First and foremost the importance of Adam McIlwee's unique vocals cannot be understated for this band (and the scene at large). Few other singers own an expression as drenched in honesty as him, characterized by a highly emotional, purposefully whiny and high pitch croon throughout the record. The return of him to continue to sing for Tigers Jaw is important, because even though Brianna Collins does a fine job showcasing a different sounding Tigers Jaw on "Hum", her efforts are best used as a juxtaposing or a contrasting tool for McIlwee. Just listen to a song like "Divide" where her soft-spoken vocals offer beautiful, faded-out backing to McIlwee's raw croons.

And here's where we come into the differences between "Charmer" and previous Tigers Jaw albums. If you're coming in expecting more of the earth shattering bursts of emotional meltdowns in the vein of "Chemicals", "I Saw Water" or "Plane Vs Tank Vs Submarine", you're going to be sorely disappointed, because McIlwee has opted for a slightly more nuanced approach this time around. His vocals are more downbeat and more melancholic, and the instruments follow suit for a slower and more contemplative soundscape. Faster tracks are few and far between (see: "Slow Come On" as an example), and the focus is shifted towards more dreamy and laid back structures. They go as far as shoegaze type arrangements on occasion as can be heard on "I Envy Your Apathy", which wouldn't have felt out-of-place on Nothing's brilliant "Guilty Of Everything" release given its slowly hummed and whisked vocals.

It goes without saying it is a grower album as a result with far more complex song structures than the previous two records, although instrumentally their core expression is still firmly rooted within heavily indie-flavored revivalist emo. As a result, the album is now closer to Lemuria than it is Balance & Composure or Braid sound wise, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. It allows for songs like "Nervous Kids" and "Cool" to branch out and explore the outer realms of the emo genre, and is the key reason why "Softspoken" is one of the best Tigers Jaw tracks since the debut album and "Spirit Desire" EP. McIlwee's quiet and contemplative croons of "I still like to get by / I've heard it before and I hate the sound / It's how I wanted to be / softspoken" are back chilling to say the least, and far more effective than if he had exploded onto the vocals as he did on "I Saw Water" for example.

I can't say I don't miss the louder and more abrasive (relatively speaking) version of Tigers Jaw in 2014. But at the same time, "Charmer" is, once you allow it enough time and some room to breathe in between each listen, another power demonstration of why people are still falling head over heels for this band.

Download: Slow Come On, Softspoken, Hum, Cool, Divide
For the fans of: Lemuria, Dad Punchers, Braid, Sundials, Dowsing, Balance And Composure
Listen: Facebook

Release date 03.06.2014
Run For Cover Records

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