The transformative new album Do Xao by Turku retro pop futurists The New Tigers represents a significant change in direction for the band. It’s nine tracks were created in the wake of a critical decision made in the winter of 2016/17 after the mid year release of their 2016 EP Vindication. Sans drummer and hitherto relying temporarily on the generosity of former Cats On Fire guitarist Ville Hopponen (now Verandan), rather bringing in another, remaining members Appu Jasu, Janne Kauppinen, Valtteri Virtanen reconstituted themselves as a trio and decided to use 2017 to focus on exploring and using the studio process for the first time to complement and enhance their guitar pop aesthestic. It was a decision that would feed their natural music risk taking personas and bring about a renewed vigor for the creative process. And that afforded them the extra space to play around and experiment with sound, style and genre organically adding and removing layers and textures without regard for textbook or convention. Jasu had this to say about the aims behind the album
“We were not interested in one particular genre but wanted to search for something new so it was basically a jump into unknown waters. One of the core rules of The New Tigers has always been that we can do anything and it will still be The New Tigers – if we like it – so we wanted to live up to the name and do just that (rule #2 is there has to be something a bit silly.”
Not unlike the trajectory between previous The New Tigers releases what has transpired out of that is not what you would expect, especially when an instrument focused based band turns their hand to the studio. The blissed out grooves and experimentation present on the warmly imperfect, psych inspired first single ‘Three Shadows’ released in October last year turned out to be a fair clue as to how they would apply things to the rest of the record. It’s a mark of the trio’s creative essence as independent artists that Do Xao has been humanised by the use of the studio and not the other way around. Far from polishing and giving a cosmetic shine to their creations, the studio enhancements feel natural and organically if not wryly applied resulting in the creation of a warm and earthy vibe across the whole album. One that reflects both their willingness to seriously value the creative process and unwillingness to take themselves too seriously.
The resulting layered textures and the use of an array of vintage instrumentation serves to nourish songs created from a heady mix of pop genres (jangle, dream, old school, psych, twee, new wave and shoegaze) and filtered through both a 90s lens and nods to the original eras and movements that produced them. Witness the futuristic jangle of current single ‘Domino’, the dreamy shimmer and new wave feel on ‘Earth Dog’ and the sun soaked, hook filled psych pop goodness of ‘Spinoff’. There’s an earnest strength that defines ‘In The Tall Grass’ in spite of the disarming ramshackle old school feel created by the band endowing it with a veritable kitchen sink of studio effects. It’s multitude of beautiful melodies stand firm as it stands ever presently tottering on the edge of collapse. The shuffling twee pop base on the brief ‘Nothing But Draining’ base is imbued with a sense of introspective drama that serves as both an appropriate preface and a perfect foil for the aforementioned ‘Three Shadows’. Even shoegaze gets a guernsey of sorts on the excellent Teenage Fanclub inspired closer ‘This Time Next Year’.
The sense of renewal at work on Do Xao in plain to see. The benefit of taking an organic approach has brought out a natural energy and vigour to the band’s songwriting which probably explains why it’s the most melodic and danceable set of tunes they’ve produced. As time and repeated listens will reveal, all of this has allowed the band to produce a style and sound all of their own, thrillingly celebratory in its scuffed up imperfections, yet respectfully measured, futuristically attuned and humbly assured.
James Stocker – April 23, 2018
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