Mighty Tiger – Western Theater

Mighty Tigers - Western Theater

Thanks to the rising popularity of bands like Fleet Foxes and Death Cab For Cutie, the 1960’s pop sound has been making a significant resurgence these days. But these two aren’t the only bands you should be hearing; take for instance Mighty Tiger and their debut Western Theater. Packing their LP with warm sounds, wonderful melodies and tight male/female harmonies, they could quickly become as popular as the aforementioned genre leaders.

The quintet formed in 2008 in Seattle, WA, and they affect “vintage pop sensibility to indie rock innovation, creating a sound that is uniquely their own.” It’s refreshing and promising to hear a band who clearly aims to craft quality music first and attempt commercial success second. In other words, their passion lies in combining their own artistic spin with the established genre they adore, making sure they love their music first and foremost. In an industry that puts guaranteed appeal ahead of concerns about individuality, Mighty Tiger shows that humility can still exist.

Crazy synthesized loops, thumping bass and a woodpecker (well, that’s what it sounds like) lead the way to the album’s first luscious pop excursion, “Voyeur Heaven”, bringing The Beach Boys instantly to mind. The harmonies bring a fun feeling, and the energy makes it a perfect opener. “Rook to King” features acoustic and slide guitar, which slows down the momentum for a slightly nostalgic lyric. It’s almost bluesy (or, maybe, it actually is), but it’s also uplifting, as if the regret is objective and the speaker has moved on in life.

“33 1/3” is easily the catchiest track on here (I’ve been singing it in my head for a week now), with a chorus that’s simple but very effective. Extremely subtle orchestration complements perfectly, and the background harmonies are wonderful. Vocally, They Might Be Giants come to mind (not in zaniness but just the timbre). If there’s a clear choice for radio play, this is it. “Signature Cup” increases the strings, taking a slight touch from The Moody Blues, for a somber ballad. The beautiful production aids the sad melody, making for the most textured and accomplished track yet.

A banjo and bird whistles lend a sunny, woodland vibe to “Chibi Girl”. It’s a slow, sparse track, but still worth hearing. You can almost walk through the space between the notes, basking in a great image of summer hiking. “The Most American Thing in America” is luxuriant with male/female harmony, delicate organ and syncopation, and pleasant guitar arpeggios. Melodically it succeeds as well, keeping your interest instantly. It’d be great if all bands put this much effort into their craft.

“Ecto Cooler” combines the tapping piano of Panic! At The Disco with the slightly punky guitar riffs of The Pixies. Actually, it’s a lot like a combination of the former’s “Nine in the Afternoon,” the latter’s “Where is My Mind?” and their own unique songwriting. It’s great. “Wide Awake” keeps the pace with interesting drumming and a great acoustic guitar sound. The vocals are as warm as ever and, like all of Western Theater, you can tell they’re having a great time playing.

“Your Company” lets the bass take more of the spotlight, and the female vocals counter the main nicely. The melody climbs up chromatically, grabbing your attention, and the brief a cappella breaks, as well as the vocals and instruments reciting the same progressions in unison, makes this one of the most technically impressive tracks. “Hands in Holy Water” features a marching beat, as if the bass drum was an elephant. The free spirited-ness of the whistling and lyrical simplicity channels a great vibe, again proving that Mighty Tiger love what they’re doing here.

A female lead vocal provides a revitalizing change on “The Last Mountaineer”, and the storytelling approach is interesting. The predominant slide guitar accompaniment is used well too. The closer, “A Reason to Keep Breathing”, is not only the longest track, but also the most tense and dramatic. The piano chords and melody create a level of melancholy not yet explored on Western Theater, and it takes its time developing several textures as it escalates towards the conclusion. It’s a glorious ending.

Mighty Tiger is an indie pop band that proudly announces its influences, which is good since it’s undeniable that this quintet grew up listening to the Beach Boys’ masterpiece Pet Sounds, not to mention Harry Nilsson and, more recently, The Flaming Lips. But instead of being just another run of the mill band trying to emulate that signature 60’s pop sound, they add enough unique production, solid songwriting and a genuinely fun vibe. Western Theater easily succeeds at being a catchy, fun, warm debut pop album, and its melodies are guaranteed to become jammed into your head.