East London’s Tigercats first release for Fortuna POP!, Mysteries, is vividly emotional and sonically expansive, blending the very best of indiepop with complex song structures, lush production and beautiful arrangements.
Tigercats combine the talents of songwriter, singer and guitarist Duncan Barrett with his brother Giles on bass, Laura Kovic on keyboards and vocals, and Jonny Evans on drums, as well as recent recruit Paul Rains from Allo Darlin’ on guitar. And on Mysteries they’re joined by living legend Terry Edwards (Gallon Drunk / Tindersticks), who contributes saxophone and trumpet on several tracks.
Mysteries is the second album from Tigercats, described by The Sunday Times in a review of their 2012 debut Isle of Dogs (Fika Recordings) as “a very, very good band…. The kind of band that make you want to be a teenager again, so they can be your band.” Isle of Dogs fizzed with jangly punk, afro rhythms and spoken word sections, while Mysteries is a sophisticated pop record, effervescent and spirited, with care and love poured into every song.
What makes a very, very good band even better? Two years of heavy touring for one, bringing them closer as a band but also pushing themselves and honing their skills. Many of the songs on the album have been live staples, starting off one way and mutating in to something totally different, giving the songs time to grow and develop before heading in to the studio. And once they did head in, bassist Giles Barrett’s day job at London’s legendary Soup Studios allowed the band nearly unlimited time to get deeper in to the recording process – so deep that it verged on insanity. As Giles says, “We took every song as far as it could possibly go. There was a lot of speeding up and slowing things down with the tape machine, and the arguments over fractions of a bpm would get heated. There were a few times the tapes were mysteriously wiped overnight."
Highlights include album opener “Junior Champion”, a pop gem in the shape of bishops, knights, kings and queens - a Bobby Fischer-referencing love song and anthem for chess fans everywhere - and “Wheezer”, of which Duncan says cagily, “I don’t want to say what this song is about, the record’s not called Mysteries for nothing. Although this one is just a small, silly mystery and it should be pretty easy to work out - the clue is in the title”. The album closer, the gorgeous, woozy “Wendy & Lisa”, sees Duncan referencing another of his musical obsessions, saying, “This is the result of reading too many terrible Prince biographies and conflating The Revolution’s private lives with my own in dreams. There is a dream logic to the song that made sense when I wrote it, but I can’t figure it out now.”
Although Duncan is the vocalist for most of the songs, Laura takes the lead on two, the dreamy Saint Etienne-esque “Laura & Cesar” (based on two minor characters in Roberto Bolaño’s novel The Savage Detectives), and the forthcoming single, the fabulous “Sleeping in the Backseat”, of which Duncan says, “I’ve always wanted to write a good driving song, but I don’t have a license so this is probably the closest I’ll get.”
Mysteries is the sound of a band of outstanding musicians fulfilling their potential and using their talents in the studio to realise their musical vision, retaining their infectious hooks, their heart and their sheer danceability, and coupling it with a bright new contemporary sound. Superbly crafted and full of personality, Tigercats’ second album suggests that they won’t remain a mystery much longer.
1. Junior Champion
2. Laura And Cesar
3. King Of Vic
4. Globe Town
5. Call Me If You Need Me
7. Too Sad To Tell You
8. Sleeping In The Back Seat
9. So Haunted
10. Wendy And Lisa