Tigercats bounced out of the gates in 2012 with their vibrant and immensely twee debut, Isle Of Dogs. It was refreshingly unpretentious and, above all else, thoroughly enjoyable; so much so that Fortuna POP! signed them following its success. They fit very nicely into the label’s roster, and for their follow-up, Mysteries, they’re fortunate enough to get the assistance of Paul Rains from labelmates Allo Darlin’, who fleshes out their aesthetic with additional guitars and brass.
Anyone expecting them to continue where they left off will be initially thrown off as, compared to the buoyancy and joy of their debut, Mysteries does feel like a sudden change of pace. Whilst their debut was the sound of a band enjoying life in East London, this is a more considered overview of their lives since then and their surroundings. The jangly guitars are still intact, as are the sharp hooks, but the tunes are far more contemplative.
There’s plenty of evidence to be found of Tigercats’ change of pace. Junior Champion serves, for a while at least, as a prolonged, gentle introduction until a brass fanfare injects the song with more energy and gives it the encouragement to go gung-ho. Elsewhere, Globe Town is perfectly poised, with Duncan Barrett and Laura Kovic’s vocals rising above the calm instrumentation that only occasionally turns into a cacophony of noise. Sometimes it takes a bit too much time for songs to find their groove and, when they do, it’s almost too late (see King Of Vic, which could have been a jewel in their crown).
However, one of the pros of a more stripped-back sound is that it shines a light on their lyrics. It’s this aspect of Tigercats – one that is honest and, at times, wounded – that is the most impressive. Wendy And Lisa is the weary closer that acts as the album’s highlight, detailing a relationship that has been on the rocks for some time (“We’ve been telling lies since the summer/And in my dreams, you were in the arms of another”). It’s a touching and well-judged way to finish.
Before that final salvo are three or four other gems. Wheezer has a euphoria about it that’s reminiscent of their earlier material whilst Barrett and Kovic’s vocals on the downright beautiful Sleeping In The Back Seat are something to behold. Too Sad To Tell You sees them at their most anxiety-ridden whilst the epic So Haunted – with a nagging guitar line that buzzes furiously – is filled with tension and gets truly exhilarating towards the end.
It’s that second half of the record that makes Mysteries a recommended listen. It will take a few spins to fully appreciate it – the songs are not always compelling in the way that they should be – but there’s plenty of proof that they have uncovered a bit more depth, both musically and lyrically. Tigercats are beginning to establish their own path.