ALBUM REVIEW: Tigers Jaw – ‘Charmer’

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Mixing emo song structures and lyrics, sugary pop keyboards, and indie instrumentation, Tigers Jaw became a poster-band for the Tumblr generation back in 2008. Despite this, since their self titled record, Tigers Jaw have never reached their full potential, with a series of disappointing, but solid, EP’s, and a second album. Everything they released since then was in no way bad, but simply lacked the spark and inspiration of the self titled release. With the announcement of the departure of three founding members last year, it appeared the band was finished. Despite this, the original line-up announced they had one more release, a full length album named Charmer. With the future of the band unclear, fans had a long wait to see if this lineup could go out with a bang.

Quite simply, Tigers Jaw have released their best collection of songs yet. The whole record is packed with moments that showcase how far they have come since their disappointing ‘Two Worlds’ album four years ago. ‘Nervous Kids’ features guitarist Ben Walsh on lead vocals and he excels, delivering an early highlight. ‘I Envy Your Apathy’ opens up with a bouncy riff reminiscent of Pity Sex’ short song Drawstring, before settling into a slow mid temp track that ends side A with something different. ‘Distress Signal’ is simply a rerecorded version of an older stand alone song, however the new recording is much improved, and it becomes one of the albums stronger songs because of it. ‘Slow Come On’ meanwhile takes the vintage fast Tigers Jaw formula and applies it to a song about sex, with a peculiar, but stunning, outcome, with guitarist Adam McIlwee’s vocals shining throughout. Coming after the gradual build of the stunning ‘Slow Divide’, the song comes as a literal release of energy for both the listener and the band.

‘Charmer’ contains two stand out songs. ‘Teen Rocket’ is a slower number, clearly influenced by old-school emo bands, especially American Football. Showcasing Walsh’s improved vocals, the song is driven by some superb lyrics, and opens with him singing “My mind is full of reasons I can’t help what we’ve become / A time capsule / buried in the way you make me numb”. The song slowly builds in atmosphere, and during a superb bridge, Walsh bursts out of the musical fuzz, singing, “I’m much too quiet to change any minds / Can’t fix your life / Can’t even handle mine,” in a moment bound to send shivers up any listeners spines. It’s the albums strongest slow moment, and one that hits hard emotionally and is sure to resonate with many.

The best track, however, is first single ‘Hum’. Opening with a repeated solo guitar riff, the song bursts into life as a less punky number than usual, but is no worse off for it. Keyboardist, Brianna Collins takes on lead vocals and delivers the best vocal performance of the record. Singing of a former love, she says, “You left a permanent scar,” before Walsh joins her later in the track. Walsh’s vocals naturally overpower Collins’, however it works well, and perfectly compliments the highly emotional lyrics. The bridge to the song bursts into life, as Collins and Walsh sing “You are the leaves at my feet / You are the hum of electric heat / I kept myself away / but I’m starting to like the pain.” The song feels like the perfect accompaniment on sleepless nights, and is easily the best song the band have ever written.

Lyrically, the album takes a far more defeated tone than on previous records. Their self titled was almost desperate in it’s content (“lie to me like you used to / tell me everything is how it should be” – Plane Vs Tank Vs Submarine), and it was reflected in the strained vocals in many of the songs. Charmer, by contrast, feels less hopeful, like someone who has already accepted defeat. On closer What Would You Do, Ben sings “I don’t feel anything at all / I’ll touch you and you’ll know I’m really bored,” in a statement that seems to reflect the overall tone of the album.

Despite three members announcing their departure (only Collins and Walsh remaining), Tigers Jaw have released an album that is by far their best, containing a more cohesive atmosphere through out. What the future holds is still up in the air, but with Collins and Walsh being the stand out members on this record, I wouldn’t be too worried.

Review written by Sam Cowen.

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Physical copies of ‘Charmer’ as a Vinyl and CD are now available to purchase from Run For Cover Records or you can download the album digitally here.