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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