Perhaps being the Scranton-based band that has enjoyed more success outside of the Electric City than other local acts have, Tigers Jaw has ended up at a bit of a transitional point.
In 2014, after recording their previous album, “Charmer,” three of the band’s five members left the group, leaving behind Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins to piece together what comes next for the group.
This is where Tigers Jaw’s newest album, “spin,” comes in. While being the band’s fifth release, “spin” is its first as a duo, and also its first released on a major label, Black Cement.
Now if you haven’t heard of Black Cement, you’ll be forgiven, as “spin” actually also serves as the first album released on the new Atlantic Records imprint.
This may have left Tigers Jaw feeling a bit of stress, as “spin” needed to prove both their ability to perform as a duo and their viability as the flagship signees to a new label.
But if Tigers Jaw actually felt the stress that I can only imagine they did, they can breathe a sigh of relief, as “spin” serves as the most mature and polished record in the band’s discography.
Long-time fans of Tigers Jaw may be surprised to hear a somewhat more measured approach than previous releases, as the group nearly totally abandons the pop punk aggression that could be heard on their self-titled album, in favor of a more complete delve into emo revivalism.
This isn’t the sparkly, dreamy kind of emo in the vein of American Football, though. Instead, Tigers Jaw focuses a bit more on sort of crunchy, shoegaze-inspired guitar riffs, especially on tracks like “Blurry Vision.”
One of the drawbacks of the record comes from the band’s plunge into emo, as most of the songs feature rather standard emo lyrics.
Most of the songs are usually about the speaker singing to some unnamed “you,” and the speaker feels as though they either have been pushed away by “you” or are pushing “you” away.
“What’s your favorite way to dull the pain?” the band asks this “you” figure on the track “Favorite.” They go on, saying, “I haven’t found a way to replace you, but I wish I could.”
Similarly, on “Brass Ring,” Collins wonders, “How can I say what I want to say/ when every word pushes you away?”
When separated from the instrumentals, the lyrics begin to feel a bit “cut-and-paste,” the sort that are just vague enough to apply to anyone.
However, when attached to the instrumentation, and when you can hear Walsh and Collins sing, the lyrics begin to take on a real sense of conviction. Even if the lyrics could apply to anyone, Walsh and Collins seem to say, “They apply to us.”
Across the 40-some odd minutes of “spin,” Tigers Jaw crafts 12 emo songs that are almost always musically bright but lyrically a bit darker.
Much of the brightness present on the album comes from the combination of Walsh’s and Collins’ vocals. Collins has a voice that can only be described as “sunny,” while Walsh takes on a darker croon more typical of early emo artists.
The dichotomy between the two is one of the most engaging parts of the record, as they use their voices to contrast each other in very interesting ways.
On some tracks, Walsh serves as the only vocalist, while on others, especially the album highlight, “June,” Collins is the star. Sometimes, like on “Favorite,” Collins is thrust way down into the mix, acting like an eerie echo to Walsh, while still others treat the two as equal parts.
Hearing the ways in which Collins and Walsh play to their strengths is truly the most engaging part of the record. With this sort of compelling vocal play between the two, Tigers Jaw show that they don’t only work well as a duo; they excel as one.
If you’re interested in seeing Tigers Jaw perform some of the songs from “spin” live, they’ll be playing a show at 7 p.m. Monday, June 26, at Gallery of Sound, located at 186 Mundy St., Wilkes-Barre. This week, customers who buy either a copy of the “spin” CD or reserve a copy of the limited edition vinyl, due out June 23, will receive a wristband that will guarantee them priority entry into the show.
If the performance will be anything like the record, it won’t be one to miss.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6119 or on Twitter @PatKernan
Artist: Tigers Jaw
Label: Black Cement
Best Track: ‘June’