Guest Review: Kori Shearer on Daniel Ellsworth and the Great Lakes – Kid Tiger – Energetic percussion-heavy indie rock releases exciting album

On March 4, 2014, four-piece indie rock band Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes will release their sophomore album, Kid Tiger. Based in Nashville, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes have built a significant fan base spanning the country thanks to a slew of self-booked and self-promoted shows. Their tenacity has paid off; they are touted for their energetic live shows and have a successful first album, Civilized Man, which topped the AmazonMP3 album sales chart, under their belts. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes were named one of the “15 Bands to Watch in 2014” by Esquire Magazine, setting high expectations for Kid Tiger.

I had the opportunity to check Kid Tiger out, and I was impressed right off the bat with the energy this album conveys. It’s a unique listening experience that packs the full punch of an energetic live show, as it was tracked live with the intention of delivering the bands’ notorious energy via airwaves. Kid Tiger is a dreamy soundscape with vocals and instrumentals that intertwine and play off one another and an incredibly satisfying use of drums. The drums were an asset I noted on each track—oftentimes showcased with some really cool, offbeat choices, or as a steady heartbeat for the whole song, it’s the type of musicianship that touches your bones and keeps you moving. I’m a sucker for an album that is well-organized, and I was really satisfied with the structure of Kid Tiger—even the order of the songs makes sense as a set list from a live show.

The first single from Kid Tiger, “Sun Goes Out”, is a wise choice. It holds the quintessential elements of indie rock—it’s one of those songs that would inevitably cause you to reach over and crank the volume a little louder when it comes on the radio. The vocals and instrumentals are interwoven perfectly and there are some solid dance moments—all together, it’s a piece that will keep your fingers tapping and feet dancing. “Sun Goes Out is an excellent foundation to prepare you for an album that reaches deeper the more you delve.

The standout tracks for me were incredibly easy to pick out when I reviewed the notes I took during my first listen to Kid Tiger. “Fits & Starts” and “Little Light” hit me with the heaviest impact and I loved every moment. My scribbled notes usually have a few words on my initial impression of the song with some technical points mixed in—for these two tracks, I instantly jotted down, “Yes.” The vocals are so well-developed with some bluesy undertones and interesting beats that really appealed to me. “Fits & Starts” showcases a really cool instrumental breakdown that builds back up with subtle chaos (is that a thing? It is now.) “Little Light” kicks off with a really fun, laid-back quality, and then I found myself floored when it picked up. Again, it really brings out the blues in the vocals and appealed to my love for rock. This track was my favorite; it has an exemplary composition, interesting lyrics, and a lot of soul. My final note for this song was, “Is this seriously tracked live? Are you kidding me?”

Kid Tiger is an album that lives and breathes, and it’s a perfect match for both those of us who listen with all our senses and the more casual listener alike. Each component—melody, beat, vocals, lyrics, and this big invisible yet hard-hitting energy—works together so flawlessly, and it shows, because this is an extremely solid piece of work as a whole. Some albums get stuck in my “background music” file, and some stand out like, “Hey! Dedicate time to me!” This one stands out—it’s experiential and it was impossible for me to not pay attention, and I’m glad I did. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.

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