Tigers on Trains
Grandfather


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
August 26th, 2010 | 355 replies | 30,072 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Indie-folk at its finest. Grandfather is a timeless creation that captures both the ear and the imagination.

Although they are both rather anonymous compared to the indie and alternative rock behemoths of the world, Tigers on Trains and The Republic of Wolves have both managed to make footprints in their respective genres. While both bands are headed by the same singers/songwriters, Christian Van Deurs and Mason Maggio, they have very different styles. The latter is more rock influenced, with Jesse Lacey influenced lyrics, croons, and screams. On the other hand, Tigers on Trains have a distinct folk sound, one that best figures into the indie scene. Although both bands are alluring in their own ways, Tigers on Trains proves to be the brighter shining of the two gems with their debut Grandfather.

Grandfather truly masters the art of the album atmosphere. At times, the listener will feel like he/she is wandering an off-the-road path in a foggy eighteenth century forest. But at the same time, the album has all the comfort and coziness of a cold winter night spent by the fireplace. In other words, Grandfather is foreign enough to remove you from your current state of mind, yet familiar enough that it doesn’t make you work in order to understand it. One of the most beautiful aspects of the entire album is its ability to use acutely depressing themes such as existential crises and death to concoct an aura that is, ironically, so vividly uplifting. From the opening minute of “The Grammarian”, Tigers on Trains has already proven the advanced nature of their songwriting and lyrical aptitude. To a background of organs and acoustic picking, Mason Maggio beckons the listener to join him in a fantasy world, “Open all your doors and windows, let the light bleed in your house…Take a long ride to Chicago…Throw my soul into the great lake, make a lighter trip back home.” From there, every song flows together like scenes from a movie. Although every single track is essential, key highlights include the unparallelled acoustical prowess of “The Silk Road” and the slightly Paul Simon influenced “Muhammad”, which features a perfect blend of upbeat drumming, chime-like guitar play, and dissonant vocal melodies. With a dream-like atmosphere and no shortage of ideas on the musical frontier, Grandfather never presents a dull or rehashed moment.

As the album progresses, it becomes clear that innovation is the wheel that keeps Grandfather moving along at such an admirable pace. The lyrics are exquisitely written, sure, but Tigers on Trains did not invent the topics of existentialism (“A Year In The Garden Shed”), exotic journies (“The Silk Road”), and the devil (nearly every song). The good thing is that Tigers on Trains realizes this as well. Instead of being content to lay these themes out on the table in ordinary fashion, they seem to find limitless ways to make them new again. The band frequently uses religion as a means of expressing angst, distrust, or unfulfillment. For instance, the song “Sea Weed” states, “And I realized the Lord's watch, it runs a bit slow…He answers each prayer a century too late, yeah.” Also, “Muhammad” seems to be an attack on those who hide behind religion as a mask for starting wars, with the telling line, “I see eleven year olds waiving their guns, fighting wars their fathers started…I see twenty years inside of this trench, passing time and dodging bullets.” At times the band also makes allusions to the four horsemen, heaven, hell, atheism, and Islam. Despite the obvious religious aspects to the lyrics, Tigers on Trains do not seem to be promoting or denouncing any kind of religion. Instead, they are simply using it as a metaphor; as a means of expressing not only interpersonal conflict, but also the universal anxiety/paranoia characteristic in today’s society. In similar ways, the band incorporates mythology, literature, and more modern day examples (“I see corporations buying our souls putting heaven out of business“) to get their points across. To put it as simply as possible, Tigers on Trains have extremely deep, intelligent lyrics with sophisticated methods of presentation.

For as much as the album succeeds on the basis of lyrical innovation, the instrumental talent on Grandfather contributes equally (if not more). The album utilizes a limited range of instruments – acoustic guitars, drums, bass, and the occassional organ or synthesizer. At no point does the album climax with an electric guitar solo or a spine-chilling vocal shriek. Grandfather does not persue intensity in any way resembling that of modern rock or metal trends, which is quite fitting, because this is folk-indie in its purest form. Maggio and Van Deurs let the music sweep over the listener, with layers of vocal harmonies that ascend and descend in tone and in mood, leaving behind a dark but completely relaxing aura. The song structures never repeat or mimick each other, allowing each of the ten songs on the album to feel fresh and totally unique from one another. It is a rarity for any band in any genre to display such advanced songwriting ability, but Tigers on Trains show it gracefully and effortlessly on their debut. The result is an album that is truly an experience, one that you can really sink your teeth into from both a musical and lyrical perspective.

Grandfather is one-of-a-kind. It is the type of album that only comes along rarely, and when it does, it demands attention from both your ears and your mind. The flow of the work as a whole is impeccable, and there is emotion present in every guitar note, every drum beat, and every word written. The album is an atmospherical masterpiece that will have you feeling reminiscent, imaginitive, depressed, and hopeful at the same time. It will have you fearing death and loving it or as Tigers on Trains best expresses the sentiment, Death is not a curse, it's the only thing that's keeping us alive.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2010



15893 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

I implore you to listen to this album. I haven't felt this strongly about a band's work since I first heard TDAG.

Also, sorry about the massive amounts of lyrical excerpts...I might have gotten carried away, but I felt like it was necessary to paint a picture of what this album is about.

Also, 40th review wow I'm gettin' up there...

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

Counterfeit
August 26th 2010



17819 Comments


Love the name. Will get.

Gyromania
August 26th 2010



15506 Comments


Sold. Getting this now.
Excellent review SS, really enjoyed reading it. pos.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2010



15893 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

thanks gyro! let me know what you think!

Romulus
August 27th 2010



8423 Comments


awesome review, i'd say it's one of your best. pos'd, this sounds great, will get, etc.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2010



15893 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

cool cool, let me know what you think too romulus (and thanks for the pos, etc)

man first the colorful quiet, then landing on the moon, now this...indie credit ftw?

Apollo
August 27th 2010



10298 Comments


Great review! I really love this passage:

"Grandfather truly masters the art of the album atmosphere. At times, the listener will feel like he/she is wandering an off-the-road path in a foggy eighteenth century forest"

If that is true then this sounds like something I would love. Will check it out tonight and pos'd of course ;)

Apollo
August 27th 2010



10298 Comments


also holy crap nuggets at 40 reviews! congrats!

londoncalling457
August 27th 2010



2603 Comments


i've been looking for music like this lately, will definitely check this out. nice review as well, pos'd.

Phideaux
August 27th 2010



1654 Comments


Good review. Definitely piqued my interest. This sounds like something I could get into. Will give it a more proper listen later.

Fort23
August 27th 2010



2475 Comments


im definitley getting this good work.

FelixCulpa
August 27th 2010



1239 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm really liking this.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
August 27th 2010



15893 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

yeah everyone please let me know what they think of this after they listen; i want to see if this is really as good as i think it is

Gyromania
August 27th 2010



15506 Comments


One of the best recommendations I've had in a while.

Lakes.
August 27th 2010



26977 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Indie folk? What is this?! This sounds like it was made for me. MUST. BUY. AS. SOON. AS. POSSIBLE.

good review btw =]

Digging: Talk Talk - The Colour of Spring

Iamthe Nightstars
August 27th 2010



2234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Going to get this on itunes. I hope it's as good as you say it is sowing. Is it along the lines of Good Old War?

Digging: Few And Far Between - Three

crazyblinddude
August 27th 2010



3389 Comments


Awesome review. I can tell you were a bit excited when you wrote it. Going to have to check this out if it's that good.

Iamthe Nightstars
August 27th 2010



2234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The last song is my favorite on the first listen. The rest is good, but I think it might need to grow on me. Will rate later.

crazyblinddude
August 27th 2010



3389 Comments


iamthe nig


but in all seriousness i cant seem to find this anywhere

Iamthe Nightstars
August 27th 2010



2234 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

itunes bro.



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