Tigers Jaw

Making yourself vulnerable isn’t easy but it often makes for lasting art and that is certainly true of Tigers Jaw’s fifth full-length, spin. The album marks a new chapter for the Scranton, Pennsylvania-based indie rock band for many reasons: Not only is it the first collection of songs that was completely written and recorded solely by Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins, but it was also the first time they had a full month in the studio without having to worry about outside responsibilities. Furthermore it’s the inaugural release on Atlantic Records’ new imprint Black Cement, a label spearheaded by the band’s longtime collaborator Will Yip who returned to the production helm for spin.

All of these factors converged to create an album that sounds more fully formed than anything Tigers Jaw have done in the past and simultaneously establishes them as a band whose appeal truly transcends genres. While Walsh initially encouraged Collins to start singing lead vocals and songwriting with 2014’s Charmer, the duo’s collective output on spin is a collaboration in the truest sense of a creative partnership. “In a lot of ways this record is a return to the way the band started in the sense that it was coming from two people working very closely together and I think that resulted in something that was really cohesive,” Walsh explains. “The whole experience felt really organic even if the recording process was different than anything we had done in the past together.”

While Tigers Jaw’s previous four albums were recorded on tight deadlines and even tighter budgets, for spin the band would record six days a week for 10 hours a day over the course of an entire month — and while the band didn’t think they’d ever need that much time, ultimately they ended up utilizing every minute. “Having all of that extra time allowed us to track everything song by song to give each individual track its own unique focus,” Walsh explains. “It allowed for the freedom to play around with different ideas rather than keeping things tied to the way we wrote the demos; the performances, tones and structures were really tailored to each individual track which gave us so much room to play around and experiment together.”

From the sweetly syncopated, fuzzed-out bliss of the opener “Follows” to the midtempo melodicism of “June” and liltingly lovely ballad “Bullet,” spin sees Tigers Jaw stretching out sonically and correspondingly Yip was the perfect person to encourage the duo to approach things in a different way than they would have initially conceived. “Will is great at understanding what you want to get out of a song and pushing you to achieve that,” Collins explains when asked about Yip’s role “He had ideas especially about song structures that I might not have thought of and we had enough time in the studio to fully explore a lot of those ideas and see how they turned out. He didn’t try to change the way we wanted the songs to sound but he allowed us to step outside of our comfort zone.”

Tigers Jaw have always been known for their incredibly relatable lyrics and for this album Walsh tried something new: He experimented with stream-of-consciousness writing as a way to get his ideas out of his subconscious in an unfiltered fashion. “The lyrics I wrote for spin are very personal in the sense that there’s a lot of material relating to mental wellness, coming to terms with getting older and pursuing something creative like this band even though that might not be the conventional path for someone my age,” he explains. The album also sees Collins taking a shine to writing duties whether she’s writing a love song like “Same Stone” or getting introspective on the dreamy sounding “Brass Ring.”

Ultimately though, there isn’t much distinction between Walsh and Collins on spin in the sense that the two of them come together to form a collective whole — and not only do their styles perfectly complement each other, but at times their vocals are so in sync that it’s difficult to tell where one person’s voice ends and the other’s begins. “The two of us worked together so closely on this record especially when it came to layering our harmonies and I think along with open guitar chords and Casiotone organs, that’s what really makes this album sound like us,” Collins summarizes. “We needed to do what felt like Tigers Jaw — and I think we were able to do that in a really exciting way this time around.”

Pianos Become The Teeth

Pianos Become The Teeth are many things but they aren't the type of band that are simple to describe. Correspondingly if the Baltimore, Maryland, based act exploded on the scene with their 2009 debut Old Pride and gained national attention with 2011’s The Lack Long After, their third album Keep You sees them taking a brave step forward to craft a musical statement that truly transcends genres. "There's still the same amount of passion and energy inherent in this record, it's just presented in a different way," frontman Kyle Durfey explains— and that undying desire to push, challenge and redefine the band's musical limits is what makes Keep You the type of record that grows more revealing to the listener with each listen.

Obviously the biggest difference between Keep You and Pianos Become The Teeth’s previous albums is Durfey's approach, which sees him trading the throat-gutting screams of the band's early releases with cleaner, more intelligible vocals. However anyone who has followed the band's trajectory—specifically the song "Hiding" from their 2013 split with Touché Amoré—can trace the way the band's sound has evolved from a melodic hardcore act to a group who create heaviness and weight via raw emotion instead of distortion "I took a less unbridled approach to the songs this time around,” Durfey explains. “That’s what I felt the songs called for and in my heart it matched the tone of the record.”

Pianos Become The Teeth—which also features guitarists Mike York and Chad McDonald, bassist Zac Sewell and drummer David Haik— began writing Keep You in 2012 while during a tour with Title Fight. When they got home the group took a writing expedition to a cabin owned by Sewell's family in Taylors Island, Maryland, where they came up with the songs "Say Nothing" and "Lesions." "We knew Kyle was planning on singing on this album so we wanted to be able to create something musically that would be beneficial for him to do that," York says. "We paid attention to detail a lot with these songs but not in the same way that we had done in the past in the sense that instead of putting a bunch of cool parts together, we really tried to focus on the songs as a whole,” he adds.

In order to capture the band's creative vision this time around they decided to work with producer Will Yip (Circa Survive, Braid) during a month long recording session in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. "Will was just such a positive force to be around and he really helped us embrace what we were trying to do," Durfey explains. "I definitely learned a lot about my own voice and gained a ton of confidence in the process." York concurs adding, "Will knew what we were going for atmosphere wise; I realized we were making something that we loved but Will took that vision and made it more than we ever could have expected."

Musically Keep You is an expansive statement that is defined almost as much by what the listener hears as it is the dramatic space that hangs between each note. For example, when Durfey sings “you can’t be everything you want to be before your time” on the cathartic, slow build “Late Lives” the same can be said of the fact that the band had to spend eight years playing together in order to get to the point where they could write music this layered and deliberate. "I love a song like 'Late Lives' because instead of a lead riff there's intertwined riffs and David doesn't even hit a snare drum until two-and-a-half minutes in," York explains. "Alternately 'April' and 'Old Jaw' are more straightforward that anything we've ever done structure-wise but if you let yourself fall into the groove of the song you'll appreciate it in ways that I don't think have ever been possible with this band.”

That's not to say that these songs don't feature the virtuosic musicianship the band have built their name on, it’s just recontextualized into more moody and haunting compositions such as “Repine” which features atmospheric strings, an instantly contagious chorus and a tribal rhythm that solidly roots it. Lyrically Keep You deals with familiar concepts like mortality and communication in an intensely personal way that's also remarkably relatable in its honesty. "If I had to boil down the overall theme of the album it's about things you want to say to people but you can't for some reason whether it's because they're not in your life anymore or they've passed away," Durfey explains. "It still ties into our other records but it's where I'm at now, which is still morose but not being completely destroyed by anything anymore.”

That inkling of hope is expressed when Durfey sings, "your wick won't burn away" (“Repine”) or muses, "I say it all when I say nothing at all” (“Say Nothing”), conveying that memories live on after the physical bodies that embodied them have faded away. "I think it's a musical growth not a departure," Durfey summarizes when asked how he views the album. “We’re more proud of this album than anything we’ve ever done in the past,” adds York. “I’m just so excited to be able to share it with the people who have supported us for so long because I think it’s a really exciting next step for the band in every possible way.”

Like many of their fellow Philadelphians, NONA call the punk scene home, yet are creating music seemingly more akin to the earnest alternative sound of the early ’90s. Think equal parts The Lemonheads, Veruca Salt, and Dookie era Green Day and you’ll be fairly close to the understanding their influences, but these comparisons only serve as a starting point; NONA‘s music feels remarkably original and current too.

NONA signed to 6131 Records with plans to release their wonderful debut full length, Through The Head, mixed and mastered by Jay Maas (Title Fight, Transit). The final result is an album providing a great, recorded representation of this incredible band. Now looking to the future, NONA will continue their quest to take their brand of infectiously poppy alt-rock to every basement and club that will have them, rocking all of them along the way.

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