Wednesday, July 4, 2012

AP Review: Miniature Tigers- "Mia Pharoah" - a Pyscho Conundrum

In "Cleopatra", Charlie Brand sings, "you're a psycho conundrum" which might very well describe Miniature Tigers' latest album Mia Pharoah. Swallowed as one big pill, it feels like a surreal trip deep in Miniature Tiger's psyche (possibly in a Yellow Submarine) where sounds or lyrics don't necessarily mesh and where the feelings you get while listening to these songs can take unexpected turns. As a whole, the album is a bit of a shape shifter, a musical heterotopia often times dipped in thick Pet Sounds (or Smile) like productions. You have "Sex On The Regular" which is kind of a disco meets new wave affair with Brand singing in a falsetto. The vibe is like Madonna, the Ohio Players and Future Islands in one. "Easy as All That" sparkles and shines like a 1970's Abba song. Propelled on a catchy bass line and organ, it is carefree and trippy at the same time. "Flower Door" with birds chirping has an easy tempo sustained by an almost calypso-ish beat and guitar picking. The music is disarming but the lyrics make you want to know the back story, "Is it wrong to obsess? What's this need to know the question" and "It was written in your eyes; ooh, you're sadistic inside." "Boomerang" is pure kitschy pop and sounds like something Ron and Russel Mael (Sparks) could of written. "Ugly Needs" is a little mind blower. It feels airy and beautiful one minute and then creepy the next as disjointed sounds attack your senses. Similarly the beautiful melodies contain some dark things "Trust me, if I could control it, it'd be under control. It's ugly (so ugly) so ugly it has a mind of it's own. Crush it, smash it to pieces, keep it hidden away." On the lighter side, "Afternoons With David Hockney" it tightly produced, feels almost Simon and Garfunkel-esque in approach. The vocal harmonies sound so purely sweet and offset by some very cool sax in it's final moments.

If you had to pick one song on Mia Pharoah that kind of encompasses the many shades of this album, it might be "Angel Bath". It is so sonically diverse, blending lo-fi electronic and airy dreamy indie pop. I particularly like how the Casio style drums open up to a more organic sounding drum kit at all the right moments. In fact, the Casio style drums seem to come back when the song becomes more campy. The production knows exactly when to pull back and when to grow. The bright rhythm guitar with just the right amount of dirtiness sounds awesome. "Angel Bath" seems to not know what kind of song it wants to be but the shifts in tone turn out to be nice surprises instead of "wtf" moments. The last song on the album, "Husbands and Wives" is weirdly beautiful. Like a twisted George Gershwin song (on barbiturates) it features sad piano, swelling orchestral sounds and a cacophony of backing vocals. The music stirs freely around evocative lyrics, "There's something beautiful about husbands and wives... how they try and try, then again we die. Will it last, can it pass? It is not forever" and "Your hair's gray and your skin is wrinkling. There is nothing left for them to say. That's gonna be us someday." It is hard to tell if Miniature Tigers is celebrating the institution of marriage or severely mocking it and that is what makes this all so interesting. The song is a cinematic brain teaser and ends with two lines that feels like an emotional slap in the face, "Sometimes a man needs a woman... sometimes a man need a little girl." Like many of the lyrics on Mia Pharoah, "Husbands and Wives" words make you wonder what is behind them and that, to me, is one of it's poetic strengths.

Mia Pharoah is a album full of emotional and musical twists and turns. Musical and lyrically it is both light and dark. Strictly as compositions, the songs, to me, would not necessarily fit together on one album but the color of the production and Charlie Brand's stellar vocals tie them all together making the album, in the end, sound like a cohesive and pretty brilliant piece of work. Miniature Tigers continue to surprise me and make me smile.
Adler Bloom

GO HERE NOW: Miniature Tigers Official Site

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