Release Date: Jun 17, 2014
Record label: Yebo Music
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
The Miniature Tigers of today is very different than what we first heard on the band’s 2008 debut album, Tell It To The Volcano. There isn’t a better way to describe their new release, Cruel Runnings, than as a summer record. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, it’s a non-stop synth bath that begs for repeats and trips to the pool. ?Most notable is the confidence that oozes from this album.
Miniature Tigers' 2012 effort, Mia Pharaoh, was a cheeky, somewhat lo-fi, '70s disco-inflected album that made the most of the group's knack for kitschy, vintage-inspired productions and catchy melodies. The group's follow-up and fourth studio album, 2014's Cruel Runnings, continues in this retro-fun vein, albeit with a more sophisticated studio aesthetic. With a sound originally born out of lead singer/songwriter Charles Brand's lo-fi home demos, Miniature Tigers have grown into a full-fledged band.
These Brooklyn guys spent their first three records finding out how many pop subgenres they could fit into a single album. (The answer: a ton.) On their fourth effort, the Mini T's skip the wild swerving for a surprisingly cohesive set of sun-drenched, self-aware, often silly synthpop grooves. Lead single "Used to Be the Shit" is the kind of kiss-off that Vampire Weekend would have written if they'd skipped class to smoke weed on the couch more often; the cutesiness of album highlight "Selfish Girl," meanwhile, contains multitudes.
When Miniature Tigers first started putting out music in 2008, singer/guitarist Charlie Brand was writing catchy indie-pop songs with nerdy lyrical concepts involving things like octopi, injuries from dinosaur bites, and the travails of dating a cannibal. 2010’s F O R T R E S S featured an added emphasis on synths, but its best tracks, like “Rock and Roll Mountain Troll”, still conflated everyday relationship issues with weird lyrical ideas set to super-catchy indie-pop. Brand and the rest of the band swung for the fences on ‘12’s Mia Pharoah, dropping a lot of their lyrical idiosyncrasies and taking sonic cues from current hitmakers like Katy Perry to try to break out.
Miniature Tigers Cruel Runnings (Yebo Music) What happens when synthpop revivalism begins drowning in its own bubbles? Ask Miniature Tigers, which bet the farm on spry Eighties emulation clad in summer sport coats. Unlike the damaged tape warble of Neon Indian, this Brooklyn-via-Phoenix quartet's overwhelmingly clean chillwave approaches sterility. Fourth LP Cruel Runnings starts with the loudspeaker ambience of adolescent longing ("Swimming Pool Blues"), but its overly safe reliance on pre-chewed pastiche ultimately keeps the third dimension at bay.