Plumbiferous Media

Fortress – Miniature Tigers

Aug 12th 2010
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Fortress - Miniature TigersMiniature Tigers
Score: 75

Phoenix indie band Miniature Tigers was founded in 2006 by frontman Charlie Brand. Their debut album, released in 2008, displayed the band’s mixture of pop and indie styles, creating music that was upbeat in tone while strange enough in theme (thanks to tracks like “Cannibal Queen” and “Last Night’s Fake Blood”) to be genuinely interesting. Miniature Tigers’ newest album, Fortress, released late last month, continues that approach to music, while incorporating two years of musical development to create an album that is generally quite interesting – though certainly not without flaws.

Fortress is at once an upbeat and flowing album. A genuinely entrancing amalgamation of folk-rock and experimental-indie (with all the synth that generally implies), it really works quite well. The developments through the tracks are often enough to keep them strong through the bouts of repetition to which Fortress is prone – although they’re not quite enough in some of the most offensive cases. Additionally, there is a great level of detail and connection to the lyrics in many of the tracks, from the opening jangling mixing with the subsequent mention of a key of “Mansion of Misery,” to the light cheeriness pervasive in the second half of “Lolita.”

At the same time, Fortress does have some fairly serious problems. Even though the album’s tracks are quite distinct, it’s hard to avoid feeling after a bit that you’ve heard it all, and the album gradually grows less interesting. It’s certainly not helped along by some of the longer stretches of far too regular, uniform, and monotonous guitar strumming, but most of the problem originates from the very, very narrow choice of sub-genre for Fortress.

Fortress‘s lead vocals are provided by frontman Charlie Brand, his casual tones flowing over the rolling sound of the album. After four years with his band, Brand has nearly perfected the art of making his voice complement Tigers’s sound, with a carefully stepping timbre that sets the tone of each moment. Though Brand’s voice doesn’t change much over the course of the album, it’s such a natural fit and so obviously filled with enthusiasm that that’s not much of a problem. Instead, it’s a pleasure to listen to Brand sing each line.

Fortress‘s lyrics span a wide range of styles, from the psychedelic imagery of “Coyote Enchantment,” to the colorful “Mansion of Misery,” to the simply strange “Japanese Woman Living in My Closet.” However the album sounds at any given moment, with the help of Brand’s impassioned delivery, it generally manages to stay quite interesting (and occasionally amusing), whether it’s “Rock & Roll Mountain Troll”‘s regretfully reminiscent “Stoned at 3AM / And talking to myself in public / I think I really hit a low / Don’t you think so?” or Gold Skull’s vivid “I watched my mind glow down in the smoke / And I can’t look / Look away.” The lyrics of Fortress aren’t always incredible, but they’re certainly never bad – and for the vast majority of the time, the album is quite well-written.

Fortress is a very interesting album. The musical style, the fitting vocals, and the wide range of lyric subjects all support the album extremely well. The trick then, for Miniature Tigers, is to elevate the level of their music from ranging between decent and quite good to being consistently excellent, and that’s a rather large step. At this point it’s difficult to see Tigers creating an absolutely amazing album, but Fortress is still a good release in the meantime.

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