Jackpot, Tiger – Jackpot, Tiger (2014)

Turns out, taking their time has shown a spotlight on the deeper complexities surrounding Jackpot, Tiger. Whereas their debut, Chemistry Night, unfolded with all of the furious intellect and reckless abandon of a three-day session — because, well, it was — this follow up is different.

Deeper, more intriguing. Quieter, but also somehow louder. Because when they say something this time, you get the sense that it’s not an uncontrolled utterance. No, they really mean it. Alex Kahn, Claire McGinley, Kevin McGinley and Eryck Tait still approach things with all of the edgy post-modern power-pop attitude of a Weezer or a Pavement, but there’s shards of Beach Boys innocence leaking out now. With this self-titled sophomore release, they’re tracking closer to Big Star, at its best, rather than your average hooky garage-rock amalgam.

And so we have “Caught In Love,” with its layered, technicolor vocal interplay — set over a VW-bus tumping backbeat, and conveying a lyric that drips with enraptured bitterness. “No Crying,” this echoing narrative, stomps along with a compact, elastic riff, before Jackpot, Tiger suddenly backs down into a shockingly confidential accapella jolt. “Float Away” arrives like an enveloping cloud, bringing us so far inside their reminiscence that it’s difficult to imagine the moment ever ending.

Then there’s “Alone With You,” which swings with a perfect viciousness between this quietly ruminative verse on revenge and a sense of scalding release in the chorus. “Want To, Want To” dispenses with pretense, unleashing torrent after thundering torrent of sound, but in the controlled manner of Bob Mould. Everything, even their delirious jumping around, has a kind of pop-chart symmetry to it. And there’s a beauty in that which simply can’t be found in a raucous DiY fury. Their attention to detail on Jackpot, Tiger gives this new album an emotional specificity that’s difficult to shake. So, why try?

Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.