Tigers on Trains
Foundry


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason EMERITUS
July 18th, 2012 | 93 replies | 12,570 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Tigers on Trains deliver another phenomenal indie-folk record and make it look easy.

As the strangely optimistic chants of “death is not a curse, it’s the only thing that’s keeping us alive” faded out and 2009’s Grandfather came to its brilliant conclusion, listeners of the mostly unknown indie-folk outfit Tigers on Trains were left to wonder what would come next. Would we hear from this brilliant duo again? It was a fair question, considering that both front men, Mason Maggio and Christian Van Deurs, founded The Republic of Wolves – a heavier, more fully realized alternative rock version of Tigers on Trains. As that project began to take off thanks in part to a mislabeled demo that fell into the hands of zealous Brand New fans, it seemed as though Tigers on Trains were slowly (but inevitably) becoming a thing of the past. It was a shame, really, because even though both bands are exceptional in their own right, it is clear that Maggio and Van Deurs are natural folk musicians. Their vocals sound best when they are singing (not screaming, with all due respect to The Republic of Wolves), and creating gorgeous melodies layered overtop of pristine acoustic picking. So when word got out that Grandfather’s follow-up was in the works, it’s safe to say that a surprisingly large section of the fan base roared its approval. That follow-up, titled Foundry, is worth the three year wait. And best of all, it solidifies Tigers on Trains as a folk band worthy of critical acclaim instead of just being viewed as a mere afterthought.

One of the most noticeable aspects of Foundry is the improved vocals of Maggio and Van Deurs. Perhaps the breakthrough that The Republic of Wolves experienced is the best thing that could have happened to Tigers on Trains, because in the end, both singers seem more in sync with their surroundings. Maggio’s vocal melodies have never sounded more limber and versatile, curving to fit the softest crevices and climbing to reach the highest notes all with relative ease. His vast range and unwavering control is what makes tracks like ‘There Is No Prize’ possible, although nearly every song on this record showcases his talents in the same way that Bookends unleashed Paul Simon way back in the 1960’s. Both vocalists’ individual progression comes with even better harmonies, which is saying a lot for anyone who’s heard the unbelievable rapport that they shared on previous outings. ‘Myrrhine’ is one of the most obvious instances of their gorgeous chemistry, but one doesn’t need to examine the album that closely to find moments like these. They descend upon Foundry in waves of stunning beauty, constantly providing it with a rare level of cohesiveness and an atmosphere that permeates the entire experience like a steady, uniformly flowing river. In that sense, Foundry is even better than Grandfather.

Even where Tigers on Trains haven’t shown marked improvement, they have still managed to preserve most of the qualities that drew listeners to their unique sound in the first place. The technical precision, the deceivingly complex acoustic picking, and the masterful song structuring have all made a triumphant return, allowing Foundry to feel like the natural progression from Grandfather that it truly is. The brilliant, philosophical lyrics are also back for another round, reflecting on existential, religious, and interpersonal issues with a depth that can be matched by few. In fact, their lyrics often read like old English poetry – concocting elaborate metaphors, comparing human life to nature, and raising questions that can’t necessarily be answered. ‘There Is No Prize’ contains one of the most profound passages in modern folk, stating, “there is no leaf, no patch of grass but that which is withering fast / So what is grace, what is beauty, but that which some day will die?” As bleak as the stance that Maggio and Van Deurs are taking here, it is nonetheless an ingenious one – everything after its inception commences a process of withering away, from tangible things like life to inanimate emotions such as hope and love. Eventually, everything ends. Then there’s the religious commentary of ‘Royal Asiatic Society’, a track which proclaims, “to all your antique gods, take all the tolls you want / the other side of this bridge is all we've got.” That last sentence, in particular, seems to summarize the way that religion can make human beings feel trapped – as if their only option is to offer monetary compensation as a means to the other side of the bridge (a metaphor for the afterlife). With instrumental and lyrical depth abound, Foundry stays true to the principles upon which Tigers on Trains were founded.

Despite all of its superb qualities, Foundry falters in a few key areas. The aforementioned level of cohesiveness also detracts from each song’s ability to distinguish itself, with the majority of the record floating by with minimal variations in tempo or style. The song tempos all hover within the comfortable nook of indie-folk balladry, rarely mustering enough energy to shake you out of the daze that they induce. It’s an album for relaxing mornings and quiet evenings surely, but Tigers on Trains are capable of creating something with a much wider appeal. Additionally, Foundry is significantly less accessible than its predecessor Grandfather. While some fans will understandably view this as a good thing, it causes the band to lose some of its initial appeal. Tracks such as ‘Muhammad’, ‘The Silk Road’, ‘The Grammarian’, and ‘A Year in the Garden Shed’ are virtually nonexistent, resulting in a piece that is utterly gorgeous in the moment, but scarcely memorable after it has concluded. ‘Mont Ventoux’ is most likely the lone exception, bringing an infectious verse and astonishingly beautiful chorus to the table. However, at track eleven, it feels like a case of too little too late – not to mention a frustrating reminder of what Foundry could have been with only a few more tracks like it sprinkled here or there. These issues don’t condemn Tigers on Trains’ sophomore effort by any means; they do, however, prevent it from reaching its ultimate potential.

Foundry is a no frills, silver lined indie-folk record that sounds like it could have come straight out of a foggy, eighteenth century forest. Still aglow with Grandfather’s three year old embers, Tigers on Trains’ follow-up effort almost takes on a Renaissance feel; the poetic lyrics will tug at your heart strings, the existential themes will make you contemplate ideals that you haven’t pondered since your adolescence, and the stripped-down, natural, completely acoustic instrumentals will lull you into an almost nirvana-like state of emotional equilibrium. There’s this pervading sensation of starting over, as if the world of music has collapsed under its own weight leaving only Christian Van Deurs, Mason Maggio, and an instrumental set to pick up the pieces. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s a damn good place to start.



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user ratings (74)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Emeritus
July 17th 2012



14512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

1.) If someone could fix that pesky artwork for me I'd appreciate it. It wouldn't cooperate when I tried.

2.) Still reading through this for errors just because I wanted to post it tonight, so bear with me.

3.) Longest review I've written in a while I reckon, reminds me of my 2010 days

dimsim3478
July 17th 2012



3995 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Album Rating: 4.5

Stole this from BandCamp last night. In love with it ever since.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2012



30298 Comments


Give me a sec

Digging: L'Orange - The Orchid Days

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2012



30298 Comments


Done

(It won't port over to the front page for awhile though)

SowingSeason
Emeritus
July 17th 2012



14512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks Dev, appreciate it always

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2012



30298 Comments


My guess is the white box appears when some dork (didn't say it was you) continually tries to add the art over and over, without realising that it just has to be added once and wont appear automatically. If it wasn't accepted it would just be the default question mark image, this empty white square is a bug that occurs when someone tries to force the artwork repeatedly (well, that's my uneducated guess)

Unfortunately when that happens I can't quick fix it. The site needs to update before the change is fully implemented (hence it not appearing on the front page)

SowingSeason
Emeritus
July 17th 2012



14512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah when I went to try to add it, it was already a white box. Thinking I could override it as a staff member with my upload (silly me), I probably compunded a problem that was already compounded.

Anyhow, I'm glad it seems to be working now.

cb123
July 17th 2012



1963 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ooooo nice, i really liked their first album, will be putting this on the to-do list

Xenophanes
Emeritus
July 18th 2012



10553 Comments


So I guess I need to get something by this band?

Digging: Saintseneca - Dark Arc

ABjordanMM
July 18th 2012



1291 Comments


Good review man. I liked their debut, I'll have to check this out.

Digging: Manchester Orchestra - Cope

blastOFFitsPARTYtime
July 18th 2012



1477 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Amped as fuck to get this.

Esky
July 18th 2012



166 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fantastic review that pretty much mirrors my thoughts after the first few listens, right down to Mont
Ventoux being the one track to tonally stand apart from the rest.

It's not repetitive, by any stretch - a truly beautiful album - but The Grammarian and Garden Shed
were my favourite tracks from Grandfather, and this doesn't quite hit those heights.

Still wonderful though, and inevitably my favourite album of the year.

Spare
July 18th 2012



5223 Comments


i can't help but think people throw around the word 'phenomenal' a bit too flippantly

Tyrael
July 18th 2012



20402 Comments


Oh yeah...

Loving this to death

Digging: Lantlos - Melting Sun

FelixCulpa
July 18th 2012



1236 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Swell review sowing. Also you can stream/buy the whole thing here; http://music.simplestereo.com/album/foundry

SowingSeason
Emeritus
July 18th 2012



14512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@esky: completely agreed. I wasn't expecting this to be as good as grandfather, but this lacks those incredible tracks, outside mont ventoux

@xeno: both albums are great, but grandfather is better IMO if you're looking for a place to start

@spare: nah ;-)

@felix: thanks for providing that steam bud



Aids
Contributing Reviewer
July 18th 2012



23652 Comments


wasn't crazy about Grandfather like you led me to believe I would be Sowing, not sure if I should trust you on this one....

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

DurzoBlint
July 18th 2012



1131 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Man I love republic of wolves, this is better than anything they have done.

SowingSeason
Emeritus
July 18th 2012



14512 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Honestly I'd still try this, aids. Its different enough from grandfather to warrant a listen, even though I feel like its not quite as good. But if you disagreed about how good grandfather was to begin with, then this may very well be a step up as far as you're concerned

vivapo
July 18th 2012



7 Comments


Good review. Their debut was really solid, so I'll plan on checking this out soon...



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