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  • Writer's pictureNick Villers

Album Review: Brothertiger - Brothertiger

By: Nick Villers

FFO: Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, 80s world/pop

Release Date: November 4th, 2022


John Jagos moniker Brothertiger is back to invoke feelings of driving down the coastal chillwave highway. Started in 2009, Brothertiger provided an indie/electronic sound that saturated the early 2010s similar to artists such as Washed Out, Teen Daze, and Craft Spells. This sound was a soundtrack to college millennials lives and Urban Outfitters everywhere. Brothertiger's sound continued to evolve with each release leaning more into softer 80s synths and pads, especially heard on his 2015 album Out of Touch, such as the track "High Tide". 2017 became an inflection point in Brothertiger's direction as he ambitiously released a cover album of Tears For Fears highly acclaimed Songs From The Big Chair, which was even praised by Tears For Fears themselves. It was a new era. This led Brothertiger to create his own blend of modern chillwave, 80s synth pop, and world music filled with influences of artists who defined a similar style of pop music over 30 years ago including Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, and Talking Heads. 2020's release Paradise Lost was the culmination of this. John's first full-length in five years, he found the sound he was looking for and truly developed a soundscape that was nostalgic, refreshing, and full of escapism through one of the most challenging years of our existence. The record was genre defining, and is sure to become a staple for anyone who favors the 80s world/pop sound in our modern day. It truly solidified Brothertiger's place in the electronic and synthwave scene.

In the peak of fall 2022, Brothertiger has released his fifth studio album, self-titled Brothertiger. The self-titled is unique as seven tracks were released as singles over the last year and have been packaged with three additional unreleased songs. For me, it was a slight surprise to realize I had already heard the majority of the record listening to these singles over the last year, leaving less anticipation in what the record would sound like whereas the majority of Paradise Lost remained a mystery until it's release. Nevertheless, Brothertiger takes you on an auditory escape to a coastline you never knew existed and that you needed. If Paradise Lost was walking the beach at night to decompress after the day's challenges, then Brothertiger is the sunrise ready to take on the world and start anew.

From the moment the piano introduces the opening track "Tangerine", you're hit with a hopeful, upbeat Brothertiger that emphasizes the 80s pop influence in his sound. If you're already a fan of his previous work, you immediately recognize the next iteration of his sound. Brothertiger is more energized than it's predecessor Paradise Lost but provides just as many reflective feelings, thoughts, and visualizations making you forget where you are in the moment. The second track (and one of my personal favorites) "Be True" guides you on one of the most hook driven songs on the record through it's catchy melody and storytelling metaphorical lyricism:

I’m like an island / Swimmin’ in the swell of the silence / Never thought I’d ever feel like this / (Never thought I’d ever feel like this) / I can feel the sun at its highest / See it hanging on the horizon / Opening ‘cross the sea like an iris / Never thought I’d ever feel like this.

Brothertiger has a knack for bringing you to places through his music. As you listen to "Arizona", you feel yourself moving through the Sun Belt state (this song is special to me as it was coincidently released when my wife and I went on our honeymoon to of all places...Arizona):

Check out of the hotel / I'm leaving for a new day, I am / Driving through Arizona by myself / Another swing through the Sun Belt / Swimmin' through the desert air / I'm floating down the 10 going nowhere / Pulling off to see the canyons carve through there / I am a boy without a care.

It's not only his lyricism that brings you along but how he brings the instrumentation together. Brothertiger has done such a phenomenal job capturing the 80s world/pop sound that you could mistaken his music being released in the heart of a decade defined by Tears For Fears and Peter Gabriel. Juno synthesizers, electric guitar, rhythmic mallets, electronic drums, saxophone, harmonica, and flutes are just a sample of what he uses. "Heaven" feels like it's out of Genesis or Sting's catalog, sharing a sense of optimism through it's harmonica call & response and infectious chorus belted by Jagos.

Not only does Brothertiger have a lightheartedness to it, Jagos pushes the experimentation of his sound through a number of tracks on the record. "Summer Wave '98" is driven by a spoken word/rap in the first half of the song, leaning on the edge of early 90s influence. "Yesterday" has a head-turning feature from Spencer Chamberlin, the screaming vocalist of metalcore giants, Underoath. What some may not know is Spencer is a songwriter himself and has his own pop influenced project called slo/tide. Jagos and Chamberlin compliment each other well, showing what's possible to come from Spencer in his own pop endeavors. Another feature showcases vocalist Yvette Young on the cover track, "Torn Open", one of John's favorites originally written by Sophie & Peter Johnson in 1987, showing again how interwoven his music is with the 1980s.

Brothertiger is a fantastic addition in Brothertiger's discography after the strong release of Paradise Lost and to anyone who adores the nostalgic sound of 80s world/pop music. Not only is John Jagos a great songwriter, he is a DIY musician that is able to package the entire atheistic: From breathtaking landscape videography in his music videos, nature inspired album art painted by his father, to his 80s influenced merchandise. You'd never know this artist who takes you on a journey through the "cool ocean blue" is originally from Toledo, OH. That's how great Brothertiger is at what he does. Now, I challenge you to listen to this record the same way you would have listened to it 35 years ago. Put on some headphones, sit back, and escape to the horizon "out on the road to nowhere", just the way the 1980s intended.

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