When you consider the last three or four years of Tigers Jaw’s career, spin feels a like an apt title for the band’s fifth album. After the original quintet recorded and released 2014’s stellar Charmer, the band is officially the duo of Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins. And with that foundation firmly in the ground, Tigers Jaw have released their strongest album to date in spin. Working with producer Will Yip once again – and backed by his new Atlantic Records imprint Black Cement – spin is a twelve track adventure consisting of a terrific blend of indie-pop tracks, as Collins joined Walsh with the songwriting duties. The result is stronger hooks, sweeter melodies, and an album that ascends Tigers Jaw to the very top amongst their peers.
From the album’s steady opener “Follow” to the synth-aided chill of finale “Window,” Collins and Walsh are in sync melodically throughout spin, creating some of the most luscious emo you’ll hear in 2017. Collins especially shines on her first go as a songwriter, with her tracks like the somber yet uplifting “June” and the eerie simmer of “Brass Ring” turning into album highlights. She’s a revelation as a songwriter, as “June” contains arguably the strongest melody in Tigers Jaw’s discography and could be this summer’s sleeper hit on alt-radio. Walsh obviously took on a bigger role, replacing Adam McIlwee’s gloomy register with something a bit more serene and deliberate. Songs like first single “Guardian” and “Oh Time” showcase the growth Walsh has made – the former containing the album’s catchiest chorus and the latter taking a page out of Walsh’s favorite Saves The Day record, In Reverie.
spin is Tigers Jaw’s most cohesive release and much of that credit can be attributed to Yip’s stellar production. Every moment on the record feels fresh and has a chance to breathe, whether its the subtle keys on “Favorite,” the alt-country twang on “Bullet,” or the killer pop-punk bridge of “Make It Up.” The very best happens on “Blurry Vision,” a power pop song disguised as a lo-fi acoustic number. Collins and Walsh both assume vocal duties here, turning in a beautiful duet while the subdued twang slowly transitions into something thunderous, culminating with a jaged guitar solo.
And where Charmer felt like a downer most of the time lyrically, spin contains some of the band’s most hopeful themes without ever glossing over the shit that happens in life. This LP is the band’s most honest work and essentially captures the tone Tigers Jaw has been striving for their entire career. The smooth jangle of “Favorite” is classic Tigers Jaw, with Walsh poignantly asking, “What’s your favorite way to dull the pain? / I haven’t found a way to replace you / but I wish I could,” whereas Collins waxes poetic on the stunningly beautiful “Same Stone.” The piano-driven ballad is dream-pop perfected and the closest thing you’ll find to a love song on a Tigers Jaw record. Mental wellness and the idea of caring for yourself while in emotionally draining relationships is a common theme throughout spin – Collins supports a dear friend through an abusive relationship on “June” (“I can see you and the ache you’re hiding / I’m here you know I’ll always remind you”), while Walsh advocates for himself on the brutally intimate “Escape Plan.” The song’s slow burn culminates with an exhilarating crescendo that has Walsh exclaiming, “Under the surface you confront yourself / You wonder what life would be like if I was someone else / but I am patient, I refuse to concede or believe / that I am only what you want me to be.”
Undeterred by whatever pressure there might have been as the first release on a brand new major label imprint, Tigers Jaw’s songwriting has never been crisper, amounting to the duo’s most confident music ever. While most bands would have called it quits, Walsh and Collins spun Tigers Jaw 2.0 into the best iteration of the band and spin is only the beginning of what the band can achieve within the genre and beyond.