Review Summary: Locked up with my thoughts in my head again.
There is an overwhelming aura of ambiguity throughout much of Charmer
. The lyrics are always questions delivered in a vague and opaque manner. The stringed instrumentals, hinging much closer to lo-fi emo rather than the power chords of pop-punk, create a solemn and, to put it bluntly, depressingly nostalgic feel. Hell, even the title of the album, Charmer
, is ironic given that once you finish listening you will more than likely feel just the opposite. And in all honesty, all these indifferent feels that Charmer
reciprocates to its audience are probably the exact same feelings the band members have felt for the past four years. Seeing as just over a year ago Tigers Jaw informed their fans that three of the original five members would be departing from the band, as well as the closing statement from female vocalist Brianna Collins stating that the upcoming tour schedule would “likely be the last Tigers Jaw tours for a foreseeable future,” it really isn’t a mystery as to why the album emits such feels. But the three “departed” members decided to put together one last stitch effort into finishing Charmer
. And what sounded like a train wreck, turned out to be one of the most complete alternative rock offerings released so far in 2014.
Lead vocalist Adam McIlwee is definitely the spearhead for the album success. McIlwee’s effectively somber and almost lazy drawl coincide with the (mostly)open-stringed guitar instrumentals. Title track “Charmer” is direct representative of this style, and is without a doubt one of the albums standout tracks. With a very foreboding bass-line intro that evolves into a flurry of guitar strings behind McIlwee’s self-deprecating and insecure lyrics find him pleading, saying “Definitely feeling unnecessary pain/ say that there’s no consequence/ then you walk away.” And speaking of the lyrics, the barrage of self-conscious lyrics found on here just continue to add to the albums depressing feel. While it’s nothing new in this genre of music, the questions that the lyrics bring up are definitely a more matured take than most of the finger-pointing found in much of today’s pop-punk scene. Elsewhere, lead single “Hum” gives a glimpse at what the future might hold for Tigers Jaw as remaining members Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins come together for a duet that creates some vivid imagery, with lyrics like “I’m always talking in circles / I always think ‘til I can’t sleep / You are the leaves at my feet / You are the hum of electric heat” which really paints the emotional sentiment extremely well. Another moment found on the last third of the track “Distress Signal” really brings home what all the other tracks before it have been building up with the repeated line from Collins “I don’t want to be lost like this anymore” showing the vocalist has finally hit that emotional break; the realization that all the questions and self-deprecating thoughts have finally taken their toll. It’s a truly gripping and beautifully bleak moment that in all reality should have been the closer to the album.
But it’s not, and that flaw isn't the only one found on Charmer
. While closer “What Would You Do” is not a poor track by any means, it does overstay its welcome by pushing an almost 6 minute track time. It certainly wouldn't have been a problem if it was found elsewhere on the album, but with it being the closure and having to follow suit to what was already such an immaculate possibly closure in “Distress Signal” it ends up feeling like a bonus track rather than a bona fide album resolution. Also, oddly enough, tracks with a more upbeat pop-punk feel such as “Frame You” and “Nervous Kids” tend to lag behind in terms of overall quality when put in comparison with the albums other tracks. It’s not really a complaint towards those tracks as much as it is a compliment to the more lo-fi emo tracks found throughout most of the album.
What Tigers Jaw have created in Charmer
is not only a fantastic punctuation mark to the end of a band that we know, but it is also a great look into what Tigers Jaw’s might sound like without three of their founding members. Let’s just say that if any of their future releases attempt to correct some of the minimal faults found in Charmer
and expand on many of the grand steps taken in their maturation process, a classic could be in their sights. As it stands right now, Tigers Jaw’s fourth release is a definitive rock release for 2014 that shouldn't be forgotten by years end.