American indie rock band Miniature Tigers is best known for their 2008 song “Like or Like Like,” which boasts over 65 million streams on Spotify. The song is defined by sleepy vocals about young love paired with light percussion and smooth guitar riffs, resulting in a dreamy ambience.
When artists rely on the same once-iconic tone and theme for most of their discography, the charm begins to turn threadbare in places. Although Miniature Tigers’ newest self-titled album is far from unlistenable, several tracks border on detached instead of dreamlike.
Lyrically, “Rattlesnake Heartbreak” and “Carousel” are the two weakest tracks. “Rattlesnake Heartbreak” could have elaborated on the imagery evoked in the title in a myriad of ways. Instead, it is referenced offhand in a single line, “Rattlesnake heartbreak shaking my world.” The rest of the lyrics reflect on a generic heartbreak and give no depth or context to the metaphor.
The repetition in “Carousel” is intended to simulate being trapped in a volatile relationship that neither partner can let go of, but the unoriginality of lines like “Round and around we go / On this torturous carousel of love” cause the song to miss its mark.
Other tracks that possess promising lyrics lack the proper pacing.
“Maybe in Five Years” contemplates whether it is better to take another attempt at a promising relationship once both parties have matured, or to totally move on emotionally. The concept is compelling and relatable, but it loses its grip on listeners around the five-minute mark and continues to meander for another two. It may have been a stylistic choice, but it left me cold.
Against the odds, “Miniature Tigers” makes up for these shortcomings with tracks that revitalize the qualities the band is known for.
Dream pop is taken literally in “Zzz,” a psychedelic musical romp through the aftermath of a breakup. The relationship burned hot and fast, and once it ended it left the singer’s quality of sleep in ashes. Listeners are pushed and pulled between an upbeat harmony and the cutting refrain, “There’s no dreaming here without you / Only sleeping.”
Although lead vocalist Charlie Brand has written about personal repression and failed relationships before, “Vanish into U” is unique in how it takes an honest look at how one can lead to the other. The singer explains to a lover how he must end their relationship because he struggles to behave authentically due to self-doubt and a tendency to dissociate.
Brand perfectly articulates these abstract concepts with the lines, “I can’t be the one if I’m never around / I’m always somewhere else in my head / And you only want the fictional version.” A little over two minutes is the ideal runtime for this simple idea to be executed well, and then fade out before it feels protracted.
The appealing exhaustion that dominates Brand’s vocal style is the ideal style for “Casually Yours,” which creates a dialogue between a lonely person and their depression. In the chorus, Brand parodies Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” singing “Hello darkness, my BFF, I / Haven’t seen you in a long, long time.”
His depression replies, “Did you think that you would / Feel good forever?” Though pessimistic, the song is cathartic to its core, voicing a common fear held by many who live with mental health issues.
This is not an album I would re-listen to in full, but it certainly has its shining stars. Despite their stumbles, Miniature Tigers remain an indie-scene staple.
Photo courtesy of Pi1415926535, Wikipedia