On March 21, exactly one year after three out of five members announced their departure, indie rock band Tigers Jaw announced its plans to release a new full-length album. Fans were anxious to find out how the band would recover its signature sound with the loss of half of its lead vocals. Adam McIlwee’s punk-driven screeches, when matched by the relaxed drawl of Ben Walsh’s dragging melodies, resulted in the band’s signature clamorous harmonies. Although McIlwee’s departure left a hole in the band’s impending future, the band’s original lineup came together one last time to record Charmer, before sending Walsh and keyboardist, Brianna Collins, to carry on Tigers Jaw’s legacy as a duo.
Walsh and McIlwee split the vocal responsibility evenly. McIlwee’s bored (in the best way possible) vocals are often left alone, paired with linear, lo-fi instrumentation that steers away from the band’s former punk-influenced sound. The album’s standout track, “Slow Come On,” is a McIlwee solo, showing off his careful vocal dynamics as he coos, “Does it turn you on?” over the shred of a lone electric guitar, then attacking the chorus with a sudden explosion of rhythm and thrust erupting from the band.
The band, however, is at its best when Walsh’s lazy baritone is juxtaposed with the sweet voice of keyboardist Brianna Collins. The femme-flourished harmonies are reminiscent of the band’s classic sound but with a new, gendered dimension. Collins’ innocent, heavily melodic tone lifts otherwise sleepy tracks, like “Hum,” to life.
Charmer is an album of reinvention and self-placement. As the band plays its way through a new identity, it leaves with it remnants of its old style while playing through these new sounds and influences to figure out exactly what’s up next.