Friday, May 11, 2007

My Favorite Artists (Part 3 of 5): The Actual Tigers

"It's gonna be a waste of your time/
I'm gonna tell you things you already know"

I’ve only been home for a week, but my freshman year musical associations are already set in stone. “The Auld Triangle” by Dropkick Murphys brings back memories of St. Patrick’s Day, when, among other things, we watched Benjy’s dad selling DVDs on a late-night infomercial. Anything by Ella Fitzgerald makes me think of a certain roommate’s idea of seduction, which may or may not be in need of some refining over the summer. The outro to “Wake Up” by Dr. Dog is pretty much just pure joy. The Shins represent the last month of spring semester, and remind me of Yanik’s concluding opinion of my music library (“I guess there are some good songs, but it’s just not the kind of music you want to listen to…”). I can’t play “Grace Kelly” in public, because I’m afraid I might break out into Alex’s dance.

But all of these associations pale in comparison to those I have with The Actual Tigers. Their first and only album, Gravelled and Green, was my freshman year. It was there on St. Patrick’s Day, it was drowning out Ella Fitzgerald, it was on the “study” playlist from the end of both semesters, it was playing in my iPod while the carpenter was breaking shelf. If I had to make a soundtrack for the year, it would be this album from start to finish.

I highly recommend reading this detailed review, but I’m going to do my best to give a brief impression of the band. Gravelled and Green is either the most guilt-free pop music or the catchiest rock music I’ve ever heard. It represents the best of both worlds, but never strays too far to one side. For every simple melody, there’s an unpredictable, unrestrained jam. For every typical major chord, there’s one verging on dissonance. It’s like each song is teetering on the edge of two personalities – at first content with a clean, pleasant sound, but always eventually plunging into “a regular old hootenanny of hedonism.” And the best part is that this tension, this flip-flopping of character, is only magnified with each listen, so that each time you’re even more eager for the breakdown. As the CD progresses it doesn’t disappoint – the last track (“The One That Got Away”) is the absolute perfect ending to an album.

The Actual Tigers also bring with them a certain mystique. The band began as Willis, and released one album under their original name. Gravelled and Green was released in 2001 to much critical acclaim, but for some reason never caught on. They broke up soon after and their music has basically disappeared. There are no pictures, lyrics, or tabs on Google (which makes singing along a challenge). Amazon doesn’t even carry their album. All this just makes them more appealing, despite the frustration of knowing that they’ll never release any new music. We did manage to track down the self-titled album from Willis, and it’s decent. Also, Tim Seely (singer and songwriter of the Tigers) launched a pretty successful solo career, but his music doesn’t resemble the band’s much at all. Listen to tracks below, but know that those not posted here are still more than worthy of Canals airtime.

The Actual Tigers – Bad Day
The Actual Tigers – Testimony
The Actual Tigers – On A Roll
The Actual Tigers – The One That Got Away
Dr. Dog – Wake Up (Outro)

Buy the CD here. There are only six left (one is $155), and knowing The Canals’ popularity and clout they won’t last long, so act fast.

You can stream four more tracks on their myspace.


1 comment:

Benjy said...

fewer could have done them such justice, my boy