Throughout the early stages of this so-called “emo revivial,” there were a few bands that held things down for the newcomers like Have Mercy, The Hotelier, or Old Gray came and really started the movement. One of them, very quietly, was Tigers Jaw. With their moody, smooth jams and their ability to capture the emotions of any given moment while always evolving their sound and setting the pace for the sound of the scene as we know it. They’ve been one of the most respected bands to come up from this scene in the last few years, and on Charmer, their fourth full-length, Tigers Jaw continue to prove why so many have fallen in love with them.
What will initially relieve and intrigue fans is that the same formula that has led to tracks like “I Saw Water” and “Plane Vs. Shark Vs. Submarine” is still very much intact. The 12-song album features a nearly 50-50 split of lead vocal responsibilities between Adam McIlwee (whose signature droning voice powers album opener “Cool,” the album’s title track, and “Slow Come On) and Ben Walsh (who picks the pace up with “Frame You,” “Nervous Kids,” and “Teen Rocket”). Brianna Collins provides her emphatic melodies no matter who takes the lead on vocals, and actually gets her time to shine on previous single “Hum.” Once the shock and awe has cleared from hearing Collins on her own, the track’s chorus provides a somber ode to an unavailable lover, and becomes one of the album’s greatest successes.
Musically, the band are as steady and consistent as ever, with McIlwee and Walsh providing excellent landscapes for each other’s vocals with their guitars. At times, the duo almost sound like they’re playing in a blues band, but under the emo umbrella, there’s plenty of room for crossing over into that realm, and the tones the two set blend perfectly with their dark, self-deprecating lyrics. Collins’s additions on the keyboards give each track even more of a haunting feel, most notably on “I Envy Your Apathy” and the aforementioned “Hum.” Bassist Dennis Mishko and drummer Pat Brier each turn in solid performances as well, providing the backbone for each track while the bands talented trio of vocalists to take their rightful place in the spotlight of the album’s praise. Brier also makes an appearance on lead vocals for the first time on “I Envy Your Apathy,” showing that even four full-lengths into their career, the band are still willing to try new things and take chances in their recording process.
The circumstances that surrounded the writing and recording of Charmer have been discussed to the point of exhaustion, but do deserve to be mentioned here. This will be the last time that McIlwee, Brier, and Mishko will appear on a Tigers Jaw album, and Collins and Walsh will be moving forward as a two-piece, albeit with a very different level of commitment than in years past. With such turmoil going on in the band, it may be a small miracle that this album was even released, let alone sound this good. The band’s sound has never been more pleasant, thanks to producer/wizard Will Yip’s production of the record, and if this is to be the last Tigers Jaw album with the band’s lineup as many have grown to love it, then we have yet another glowing example of why Tigers Jaw have been one of the most important bands in a long time. The album may drag for some listeners at times, but overall, tracks like “Hum,” “Slow Divide,” “Teen Rocket,” and album closer “What Would You Do” more than make up for the lulls in time, and then some. The future is wide open for Tigers Jaw, with possibilities both bright and dim. But if Charmer is to teach us anything, it’s that Tigers Jaw has been and continues to be a band that commands your attention and respect as one of the most consistent, relatable, and influential bands out there right now.