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Tiger Saw - Sing!


Erasing Clouds

Ready for a good old-fashioned sing-along? Tiger Saw's new album opens with a splendid one called "Sing!" The exclamation point is appropriate emphasis, the song's a litany of declarations about singing, each line reflecting the genuine power of music in a different way ("Sing, I'll sing everything that I feel", "Sing, I'll sing where speaking fails", etc.). For the song, and the album, Tiger Saw singer/guitarist Dylan Metrano is joined by a gang of 14 friends. Throughout the album, these musicians sing together (sometimes as a choir, sometimes as a duet, sometimes just in the background) and play together, giving Sing! a nice communal feeling, accentuating its human-ness, the way the songs address real people and real lives. Yet despite the number of people involved, the sound of the album isn't big and bombastic, it's the opposite: small and humble and friendly. The songs fit that feeling, too. They're melodic and textured but not ostentatious. Upright bass, piano, guitars, and other instruments provide a lovely setting, somehow rustic in feeling, and pretty in a way that can lead you to imagine the musicians playing the songs late at night on a beautiful beach somewhere, or off in the woods. It's gentle music, in a way, but also filled with celebration and, above all, heart - it's the kind of music where you feel that the musicians are creating it out of love, not to "hit the big time" or whatever. Metrano's songs are filled with emotional truth, and he sings them with the same. And when everyone sings together, like on the chorus of the remarkable "Postcards & Letters", that feeling is accentuated with each voice that's added. The words of that chorus, by the way, are oh so appropriate, and liable to run chills up your spine when heard in the context of a bunch of beautiful singers singing their hearts out: "Home is never really that far / keep a song with you, wherever you are."


Tiny Mix Tapes

Tiger Saw reminds me that a majority of the abstract things reviewers like to write about are inconsequential when music is really spiritual. While they're all certainly part of music, elements like intricately-woven arrangements, perfectly arranged instrumentation, and, tightly-crafted musicianship can at times take a back seat to a more riveting give-and-take. The artists who embrace the latter focus on creating a soundscape in place of something so specific as a piece of music. Though the truth may be closer to the fact that Tiger Saw is limited by the aforementioned standards, Dylan Metrano has honed his ability to create such soundscapes through simple, powerful exclamations. On Sing!, the huge band and choir sound ambitious. The strength of the music and message, however, is their overwhelming simplicity. Most of the songs on this album tackle the inner workings of loneliness, but this is by no means a drab record. Instead, through repeated vocal themes, the record challenges the listener to take in all aspects of the state they are in. The only comparison I could draw from would involve a pipe organ and ornate robes. Little music that I've heard has the same affects.


The Red Alert

Sometimes folksy, often symphonic, Tiger Saw make modest music out of complicated arrangements--orchestra strings, band instruments, and an always shifting choir. A lineup that almost occupies an entire page of the CD's insert should be denser than this, but these songs are kept simple by Dylan Metrano's vocals and Casey Dienel's piano, a stable core of traditional but repetitive melodies.

This album comes very close to achieving its namesake: it makes us want to sing(!) With the exception of a very electrified closer ("The Sea"), the songs on Sing! are warm, innocent, unpretentious, and catchy. And, while personal, they cover shared themes: home, friendship, nature, and loss. On listening, one wonders why this seems so novel, or why this disc leaves a certain music critic feeling naive. Regardless, the result is an extended hand to the listener.

Sing! is, overall, a joyful album, but in an odd sort of way. These songs are often celebrations of simple moments with lovers or creation, but there's a sense throughout that they're also celebrations of getting better, that behind this is pain. We hear on "O Dylan" the lines "the weight of our pasts/a simple surrender/to a shudder that lasts." And, on "For Adrian," by the time the line "O, we have everything..." finishes repeating, it's become ironic, turned itself into a joke.

Perhaps though, it's not a joke, and Tiger Saw really are that happy. That, then, would be the accomplishment of Sing! They convinced me, a cynic among cynics. It helps that they maintain that smile without ever bringing in faith. Their joy is found here on the ground amongst each other and the great blue world. Good for them.


Transform Online

Although I'd like to start off my review with a witty line or two about how this album fits into my musical consciousness, I really can't come up with a more effective introduction than to say that this album really struck a chord with me. I found it moving, really: not in a groundbreaking, OK Computer kind of way, nor in a genre-challenging, this-is-a-new-sound-to-me Postal Service kind of way. It's more like the way you feel when you hear a song (or in this case, an entire album) that has both simple music (in sound, not complexity) and simple lyrics, yet through its simplicity, it's really pretty amazing.

The songs for Sing! were developed while Tiger Saw were touring to promote their last album, Gimme Danger/Gimme Sweetness. The tour found the band playing in a number of less-than-traditional venues (from basements to beaches), but the intimacy that resulted from these shows led to more-than-normal crowd participation in the form of impromptu sing-a-longs. In turn, this contributed heavily to the style in which guitarist/vocalist Dylan Metrano would compose the next batch of songs. To reproduce this atmosphere, Metrano assembled 15 friends and fellow musicians from his hometown of Newburyport, MA to form a makeshift choir and orchestra. What came out of all of this happens to be a fantastic album.

Lyrically, the songs on Sing! are about love and friendship. The messages here are delivered with such honesty, innocence, and directness that you can't help but feel the same joy or melancholy that Metrano has instilled into each song. In no other song is the emotion more evident than in "The Sun," a love song in which we're told to remind our loved-ones often about how much we care for them. So simple, yet it rings so true. "For Molly" tells of losing a loved-one who wanted a different lifestyle and moved to the city to find it. But instead of being bitter about it, or maybe feeling sorry for himself, Metrano finds it in his heart to wish this person the best of luck: "And when you think you've got it all / figured out I hope you fall / in love / this time maybe forever."

Musically, though a bit more ambitious than before, this album falls in line with Tiger Saw's slowcore past (which is a good thing). With a couple of exceptions, the songs are very delicate with soft acoustics, rich pianos, and a wide-range of other instruments. When cellist Juliet Nelson lends her vocals to songs like "The Sun," "For Adrian," and "The Tiger and the Tailor," she adds another rich dimension. And from the opener, the title track no less, you'll hear just how well Tiger Saw's makeshift choir sounds. You'll probably feel as though you're sitting around a campfire with them and could be asked to join in at any moment.

So again, what we have here is a very fine indie album. Listen to it for the music, listen to it for the lyrics, but whatever you do, just listen to it. You won't be disappointed.


Indie Workshop

For the record, I loved this band's last release, Gimme Danger / Gimme Sweetness and after listening to this more realized record, I can definitely say that my love is pretty much unswerving, even if they did try some Mount Eerie kind of tricks on this album. Sing! is full of just that, people of all shapes and sizes, singing their little indie hearts out. And it works really well when placed against the slow and competent blues of the Tiger Saw band. And slow, it is.

More Okkervil River or Bonnie Prince Billy, than Low, Tiger Saw is more folksy than minimalist. Now with the multitude of harmonies and voices and an almost honky-tonk piano (played beautifully slow by Casey Dienel), the band takes on a more traditional sound, rooted in the 60s and 70s, but amazingly fresh nonetheless.

First, you take core members Dylan Metrano (voice and guitars), cellist Juliet Nelson, and guitarist John Ryan Gallagher (no relation to Noel and Liam). and then you add returning contributors like Jason Anderson of Wolf Colonel, and the addition of three more main band members (the abovementioned ivory-tickler, along with a bass player and drummer). This swelling of the ranks gives Tiger Saw a fuller sound, but also a more grounded songwriting style. The only problem with that is that some of the pieces have the same sort of ¾ feel to them. When the band was smaller and the instruments changed more or were missing from a song, there was a definite attempt to counterbalance that space with better writing. Here, there is sometimes a feeling that they are just playing verse-chorus-verse-bridge for each piece.

Mind you, this doesn't really detract from the album so much, since Tiger Saw (the band) is still better than most of the bands pawning off this sound on us. I just miss a little of the magic from the earlier records.


The Clarion-Ledger

Independent music has a knack for focusing on the internal and the immediate. Tiger Saw is no different.

They sound like lots of other independent bands. They maintain all the clichés of independent music - the dissonant lo-fi electric guitars, jaw-clenched vocals, self-referential lyrics, slackjawed confessions of the obvious. In fact, it's downright witty songwriting.

On their latest release, Sing!, band leader Dylan Metrano assembled a veritable choir from the Massachusetts music scene in the hopes of capturing some of the bombast along the lines of Sufjan Stevens.

Cryptic artwork, which includes animals, vintage cameras and pictures of friends, graces the packaging and doesn't leave many clues as to what the album is trying to convey.

The sentiment here can pretty much be summed up with the lyric from the title track: Sing, I'll sing with all my friends / Sing I'll sing to my patient wife / Sing, I'll sing to all my family.

For independent music fans it sits somewhere between Arab Strap and The Polyphonic Spree. For fans of mainstream music it is, well, boring.


Last modified: Friday, 25-Jun-2010 14:16:41 PDT   [ Catalog | Bands | Listen | Who we are | Contact | Press ]