Tigers Jaw‘s tender and complex career has stretched past a decade and a half. And they’re still going strong after weathering the emo revival and a brief hiatus, and the typical ups and downs that come with a band that’s stayed together as long as they have. I Won’t Care How You Remember Me is their sixth LP, the follow up to 2017’s Spin, an album that was still living in the shadow of their 2014 opus Charmer. I Won’t Care pushes past the expectations of novelty and instead fixates on what the band’s best at: flowery, short indie haunts that hum easily and have a distinct acoustic shape, with wry lyrics spun from the heart and sleeve alike.
Upon hearing the title track, it’s easy to think the opposite is true—that they’re leaning hard into a newer sound. It’s sparse, gentle and graceful, with only a solemn guitar and Ben Walsh’s voice harmonizing over it. Although the chorus is elevated with a full accompaniment, it’s still raw. After two minutes, though, this quickly fades, with its acoustic shyness abandoned for a measured brashness. The album’s lyrical content, easily their most mature to date, is immediate in its depiction of grappling with world weary cynicism and conviction, as Walsh sings “I wish I was writing fiction when I was just writing scripts/But there’s no medicine, no spiritual truth to be found in this.”
It’s more complicated to chart the rest of the album’s character, which may be because of how Tigers Jaw has always positioned themselves outside of their emo contemporaries. The band has remained steadfast to a sound that has grown through small changes rather than drastic experimentation. Fundamentally, they are still working through interesting creative spaces here. “Cat’s Cradle” introduces a full production that ensures listeners hear all band members’ instrumentation, with a brilliant mixing by producer Will Yip who returns from his work on 2014’s Charmer picking up where he left off.
There’s a fondness for pop affectation that remains on tracks like “Hesitation” and “New Detroit” with catchy and bright guitar inflections and inviting tones. “Can’t Wait Forever” is about the closest you’ll hear to a revival of their earliest sound, with crunchy percussive fills and choppy riffs pulsing between each fist pumping verse. Its decadent, cannonade ending is an unexpected and nice touch.
Vocalists Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh have spent a lot of time cultivating their style and it shows throughout. “Lemon Mouth” is some of Collins’ best vocal work she’s ever done, with equally rich lyrics that evoke both color and mood; “Time moving in dog years/I’m yellow, then I’m blue.” These chromatic themes seem to emerge throughout the album in some capacity. Yet it’s rare that the album works toward something more full-throated. “Heaven Apart” finds the band leaning hard into a darker palette, with Collins’ voice possessing more space and force here, working through lines like “Felt a spider crawling down my neck/Spelled perennial love with its web” with utter jubilation.
I Won’t Care How You Remember Me finds Tigers Jaw embracing their gentlest side possible, with an ease that has never quite come to the band in their tenure. Full of feeling, while modest in its compositions, it frequently finds each track bookended with an interesting sonic experiment. Against its hidden lyrical struggles, it remains overtly sunny, finding every prospective instrumental and vocal range backed by a sense of smooth confidence. As an experience however, it dissipates when heard in full, an aural sleight of hand, like the phantasmal last line, “We all fall apart in the same way,” leaving behind an imprint of a band at its finest and most direct.