Monday, April 9, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Tigercats - Isle of Dogs

On “Coffin for the Isle of Dogs,” the opening track of their debut full-length album, Tigercats frontman Duncan Barrett boldly proclaims that his band’s record is a "declaration of independence."  Album openers often serve as mission statements and while Barrett’s decree certainly isn’t the most audacious of all time (Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” comes to mind), it does require that the London-based indie pop band deliver something that distinguishes them from the rest of the pack.   There has been a glut of largely-faceless and almost comically-homogeneous indie pop bands in recent years, causing the genre to lose much of the vitality that was it’s greatest strength.  Delivering on the promise of the singles that they have been releasing for the past few years, with Isle of Dogs Tigercats have written a record that is full of personality, vitality, and even youthful rebellion, the sort of record that very well might reinvigorate indie pop.

The crux of what makes Isle of Dogs such a triumph for indie pop is that it defies so many of indie pop’s pitfalls that have unfortunately become its conventions whilst retaining the infectious melodies that are the genre’s bread-and-butter.  The aforementioned title track is an impassioned (and quite timely) rallying-cry for the common man with noisy, almost dissonant guitars that reinforce the group’s chant of “You call it fallout / We call it payback / We’re going to make you / Wish you didn’t say that.”  In fact, incorporating musical styles completely unassociated with indie pop is one of the main components of Tigercat’s brilliance.  Dissonant noise is employed again on album highlight “Banned at the Troxy” while tropical, possibly afrobeat inspired rhythms and melodies give tracks like “Full Moon Reggae Party” and “Limehouse Nights” an undeniable charm and energy.

In addition to being a unique indie pop record sonically and sources of influence, Isle of Dogs exhibits an unselfconscious and positively boisterous personality thanks in large part to Tigercat’s vocalists and breadth of songwriting.  The absolute antithesis of the unsure and diminutive indie pop vocalist stereotype, Barrett’s vocal presence is comparable to that of Jeff Mangum, unabashed, commanding, impassioned, and capable of effectively conveying the entire spectrum of emotions.  While a much more traditional vocalist in terms of timbre and delivery, keyboardist/backup vocalist Laura K. is equally pivotal in Tigercat’s vocal equation simultaneously contrasting and complimenting  Barrett.  Laura gets the spotlight on the closing track “Jonny,” a effusive torch song that provides the perfect end to the album.

“Jonny” isn’t the only tender moment on the album though.  In fact the album dabbles in joy, anger, and sadness quite equally.  Named after the alternative rock couple that no one on Earth expected to split, “Kim & Thurston” sees Tigercats excelling in heart-crushing melancholy as does the languid “Stevie Nicks.”  In direct contrast to these tracks are the decidedly more upbeat “Harper Lee” and “Easter Island.”
In summation, Tigercats’ Isle of Dogs is the modern indie pop album that all others should be held up to.  The album features stellar songwriting, muscular musicianship, and most of all personality!  Stream the album below and order the limited-edition vinyl (complete with a bag of chaigercats tea, and a recipe for chocolate cupcakes with delectable peanut butter icing) through Fika Recordings.

Score: Lite 9

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