Miniature Tigers – Fortress

Rating: ★★★½ ·

A couple of EPs and a full-length under their belt sees Miniature Tigers returning to the fold, offering up another gem of an indie pop record for the masses.  Fortress has the band coming off confident as ever, backed by popular demand and praise from the blogosphere, not to mention classic print media like Rolling Stone.

A little bit of tinkering with percussive elements brings the listener’s ear closer on the album’s first track “Mansion of Misery,” just before the drums bounce in, along with Charlie Brand’s vocal presence.  It climaxes with a crashing bit of cymbals, right before piano and rising vocals carry us into the end.  It’s a formula indicative of where the band lives, switching things up to meet their fancy.   They employ it again on “Rock n Roll Mountain Troll,” going in three different directions in just over a minute, but the chorus is where you’ll grab the most pleasure from this track, not that there’s a bad spot in it.

Single “Gold Skull” has the benefit of working with Neon Indian, though you have to admit that a producer can only do so much, you know, if the song isn’t actually there.  Electronic blips raise the bar on the band’s pop elements, giving it a bit more of a pulse.  Warm melodies come in and out of the song, putting this group on a competitive level with every other band out there.  However, this song just has a certain something that rises above the rest, making it a favorite for many lists come the end of the year. From here they go right into another grand number, “Bullfighter Jacket.”  Aside from the somewhat annoying “yayayayaya” throughout the song, there’s this ridiculously glorious drum work that accompanies every harmony created by the band.  It’s like a more elaborate version of the Dodos, working with better melodies and higher pitches.

But, you should know that this isn’t all about pop goodness and sweeping melodies.  Miniature Tigers have a bit more to offer you here.  You can take “Dark Tiger” and the fragility in Brand’s vocal display, and you’re in some different world entirely, as if you’ve gotten lost in a world of lollipops and gumdrops, finding yourself reflecting in a bit of solemnity.  Sure, there are some light touches of multiple harmonies within this track, but for the most part, it’s lightly picked guitar and a fragile lead singer.

In the end, Fortress is exactly what you wanted it to be; it’s an album with crafty melodies in the pop spectrum, but leaning to the left of the main vein in American music culture.  Listening to this album, it seems to have the same craftiness of Grizzly Bear, using delicate touches here and there to build the sonic element within the tracks, but at the same time, Miniature Tigers are a lot more accessible in the long run.  This is an enjoyable listen, giving you a sense of positive emotions listen after listen.  Definitely a good place to find yourself as summer winds down, and you need a little revitalization.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/play.mp3]

Download: Miniature Tigers – Gold Skull [MP3]

4 comments

  • I was actually a little disappointed by the album. As a huge fan of the first one, I was unhappy with the direction the band went. I prefer the upbeat jangle of “Tell it to the Volcano.” Too many tracks on Fortress remind me of “Haunted Pyramid,” which I almost always skip.

    I think one of my biggest complaints is in the clarity of the lyrics. While the music is important, I’ve always enjoyed music a little bit more for the modern lyrical poetry is. Fortress has some great lyrics, it’s just that you can’t make them out thanks to the fact that the vocals are sluggish and run through that horrible echo filter.

    Fortress is a mostly bland album with a few bright spots like “Rock N’ Roll Mountain Troll” and “Goldskull.” But, I don’t think it’s going to make me take “Tell it to the Volcano” out of my CD player anytime soon.

  • patrick, give it a couple more listens. i do agree that maybe this one takes a little more time to grow, but its a far more rewarding listen. it takes a few twists and turns to find the treasure, but the jewels are far bigger and sparklier!

  • This album made me most unhappy. I can only hope that they sound better live with out all the machine generated gunk that’s currently raping Charlie’s voice. Recordings do this band no justice.

  • drake, i totally agree with you. the first listen through i was so disappointed but as a musician myself i knew that there is no way a band can come up with an album like tell it to the volcano and not have a clue what theyre doing on the next album. that being said, i gave it a few more listens to really find what they were trying to say and do and it was definitely rewarding. while the first album really got songs stuck in my head for weeks, fortress seemed to possess this uncanny ability to project its tone and emotions through me. totally awesome, definitely a more mature album.

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