Remembrance of things past provides the lyrical thrust of Brutal, the romantically wearied debut of Nathan Akin’s Clear Tigers. Always, our man is casting back, capturing disappointment, regret and the occasional moment of joy in the net of his nostalgia. Family, friends, lovers, facts, fantasies, one great personal mythology made public, we privileged listeners invited to share in the Proustian rush bestirred by these moments of heart-rending recall.
What’s more, Akin has this remarkable voice, pleading, quivering, a perpetual catch at the back of the throat. Is he crying and singing at the same time, choking as he tries to get the words out, tears imminent?_ ‘Vacation’ suggests someone who’s a little dissatisfied with their lot in life, “everyday the same”, disillusionment parked up where the dream used to be. No wonder he pleads for us to start a “revolution, make it all the way you want it to be”_. The guitar meanders pleasurably, keys beginning to burble with life as the song grasps towards a defiant denouement.
Chiming indie-tronica frames the wistful heart of ‘Igloo’. It is an idyll of desire, of sweet fictions, promises that can never be kept, no matter how sincerely intended. ‘Spookhouse’ is full of sharp autobiographical fragments, life’s jagged edges catching on the tapestry of guitar, keys and trembling voice. Tripping the light fantastic of Akin’s imagination,_ ‘Boredom’_ is the incongruous title for a track whose delirious musicality evokes Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
There is a wonderful sense of resignation to ‘Kids’: “Got one chance with her / You know you’re gonna blow it.” The opening, lazy shuffle of guitars leads into a breezily pop melody, every note and utterance gracefully observed. The pace quickens considerably with the engorged riffs of ‘Won’t Be Back’, a charge of the guitar brigade that is maintained on the largely instrumental ‘Summer School’.
Containing the telling line “You ain’t getting back to that dream”, ‘Summertime’ is fiendishly self-aware. Beguilingly simple folk-pop it lays out a pretty heavy message – your hopes will be defeated by reality. Akin’s urges us to take consolation in those we love. Elliott Smith ghosts into view on ‘Come Around’, all lilting guitars and pleading voice, it would not look too shabby stood next to the glistening melancholy of Either/Or.
The writhing guitars of ‘Hotel’ exorcise the prior sense of pathos, here all is fury, Clear Tigers running rock amok. ‘Deathray’ meanwhile is a work of brilliant oddity, the chanted backing, the extraterrestrial chirp of the keys and fierce guitar solo. Simplicity reigns supreme at the close; that bizarre voice flowing along a riverbed of acoustic guitar as ‘Together’ bleeds out. It provides a final, fatal hemorrhaging of emotion, the last gasp of this American’s dream.
9Francis Jones's Score