Review Summary: A time capsule
It only took twelve years for The Republic Tigers to release their follow-up to 2008’s Keep Color
. The massive stretch of time that passed isn’t even the oddest thing about Mind Over Matter
’s release – it’s that the band has had the LP completed since 2012. Originally pushed back due to what vocalist Kenn Jankowski vaguely referred to as “issues”, their sophomore full-length eventually ended up being totally shelved after parting ways with their major label. A slew of legal complications made releasing the album a pipe dream until recently, when their new label (The Record Machine) was able to untangle that mess for them. So here we are in 2020 listening to Mind Over Matter
exactly how it was supposed to be released in 2012; it hasn’t been remastered, remixed, or altered in any way. It’s the closest thing to a musical time capsule that you might encounter.
Mind Over Matter
bursts at the seams with the sort of raw energy and shimmering production that you’d expect from The Republic Tigers. It’s equal parts Midlake and The Shins, fusing sugary melodies with slick production to form an extremely palatable product that would be at home on any generic “indie” Spotify playlist. The Republic Tigers’ greatest strength is also their most noticeable weakness – these songs are so
smooth and accessible that they are almost transparent. They’re from the old indie-pop train of thought where the brighter and more sparkly the music is, the better. As a result, it’s likely to divide listeners into two camps: those who want more grit and personality, and those who don’t care and just want to have a good time.
The album’s best trait outright is its consistency. Just as Mind Over Matter
is too pleasant to offend, it never becomes overly complacent to the point of boredom. ‘Falco Peregrinus’ kicks the experience off with iridescent synths, a chorus catchy enough to rival the band’s calling-card single ‘Buildings and Mountains’, and lyrics that proved to be politically foretelling: “It’s time we build a wall / that keeps us thinking small.” They show off their savvy by following a track so glistening with something a little rougher around the edges, and we get that in the amped up electric guitars and adrenaline-pumping rhythm of ‘Somethin’ Fierce.’ This is a tradeoff that they showcase throughout Mind Over Matter
, and although The Republic Tigers never come exploding out of any genre boundaries, it’s enough to keep the record feeling fresh spin after spin.
Not every song is infectious enough to leave a lasting impression, but the highlights are strategically placed to ensure that there’s always something on the horizon. After the superb one-two punch to open the record in ‘Falco Peregrinus’ and ‘Somethin’ Fierce’, we get ‘Take It Out On Me’ to start Mind Over Matter
’s midsection – a sugary, swaying midtempo track with high-pitched, harmonic backing vocals. The crescendo of atmospheric guitars and strings see ‘Kingsly’ inject some urgency into the album’s latter half, while the closing pair of “bonus” tracks (‘Meet the Smartest Man’ and ‘Orion’, which are included standard for whatever reason), offer up a forlorn ballad and a bubbly, arpeggiated synth-wrapped closer that’s reminiscent of the New Pornographers’ Brill Bruisers
. Thus, as Mind Over Matter
chugs along with its optimistic brand of indie-pop, you’re never that far from an absolute gem.
All things considered, it’s nice to see The Republic Tigers’ sophomore effort finally see the light of day. Even as a blast from the past, it still carries some unexpected relevance – from select lyrical passages to musical directions that became trends after
this album was written behind closed doors in 2012. It’s an extension of Keeping Color
– another easily digestible yet highly enjoyable exercise in upbeat indie-pop that is meant to dominate a specific niche. Mind Over Matter
does that quite well, even if it’s not much of an artistic expansion for this group. Then again, even in its fully finished form, it’s nearly a decade old – so perhaps less emphasis should be placed on stylistic evolution than the fact that this even exists; a minor miracle in itself.