Personnel: Duncan Barrett (vocals, guitar); Laura Kovic (vocals, keyboards); Paul Rains (guitar); Giles Barrett (bass guitar); Jonny Evans (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Giles Barrett.
Recording information: Soup Studio, London.
East London indie pop troupe Tigercats go gentle on Mysteries, their mild-mannered sophomore LP and label debut for Fortuna Pop! An easier tone and richer sonic palette aren't the only changes since the release of their jaunty 2012 debut Isle of Dogs. The family has grown into a quintet with the addition of former Allo Darlin' guitarist Paul Rains, whose clean, sparkling riffs help to soften the edges of frontman Duncan Barrett's punchy, rhythmic style. Additionally, Barrett has opened the door for more vocal opportunities for singer/keyboardist Laura Kovic, who takes over the lead on a handful of tracks and shares the load with him on the rest. Though generally slower in tempo and lighter on distortion, Tigercats' source of inspiration remains in the bedrock of amiable U.K. indie pop from Orange Juice to Hefner, and their wistful melodies and sweet, quirky lyrics make them a shoe-in for the Fortuna roster. "But she's the greatest kisser and God knows I'm no Bobby Fischer" sings Barrett in his affected warble on the standout opener "Junior Champion," whose sunny flute melody and chiming guitars could have come from a late-'90s Ladybug Transistor record. Other orchestrations, like the horn sections on "Call Me If You Need Me" and the strident, '80s synth-laden "Wheezer," add pleasing layers of warmth and depth to the production, which feels like a step up from the starker immediacy of their debut. While Tigercats are unlikely to turn many heads with this type of overly polite pop, songs like "Sleeping in the Backseat" and "Wendy and Lisa" are perfect companions for a hazy summertime day trip. ~ Timothy Monger