As John Jagos sings "Save me from the grip of the modern age" early on in "Tangerine," the opening track of the latest from his alter-ego Brothertiger, three words spring to mind: sparkling, honest, and nostalgic. Indeed, the music hearkens back to the ilk of carefully crafted new wave sounds in the vein of ABC and Spandau Ballet, minus any flamboyance and serving up no pretentiousness. What remains is perfectly composed chill electronic pop, melody at the forefront. With sounds like summer wafting wistfully through headphones as I write, this is music perfect for road trips in the middle of nowhere, lounging on a beach recliner while the waves roll in, or simply snuggling under a blanket with the music present like a good friend.
Compiling tracks previously released as singles on his Bandcamp page, Brothertiger showcases the continued growth Jagos displays following stellar releases Paradise Lost and Out of Touch. The catchiness of Jagos' melodies belies the potent, often dark underpinnings of his art through his use of lyrics. Take "Be True" as an example, leading off like an anthem to struggling youth learning to find themselves: "Always be true, Ring true like a bell, Resonate through you, Elevate myself" but injecting caution into the manifesto in the chorus:
"I finally built the walls around me
Completely up surrounding
Finally built the walls around me
Jagos is unafraid to make forays into deeper topics like the dissolution of relationships ("Torn Open"), the desire to escape one's own life ("Wallow." "Summer Wave '98"), and in "Heaven," a disenchantment with faith:
"They say the word becomes the weapon
How do you recognize the pain in you?
I lost my way to heaven
A new state of mind that I fell into"
The love-be-damned "Torn Open" is wildly contrasting as guest Yvette Young sings her impassioned heart out with Jagos, the song sounding like an homage to eternal love, melodically bursting with joy and positive expectations. Listen closely to the lyrics, and it is anything but this: "Do you remember / Rain or shine / We'd be together every day / Now ever day I cry / Feeling I could die / Cuz the pain inside never goes away." Pristine, undistilled honest pop, but do "pop" singers coat their darkness in such bright and cheery trappings? Perfection never tripped me up so pleasantly.
Other songs like "Arizona" and "Dancer on the Water" have the same underlying thoughtful lyrics but are just as pleasant to take at face value. Jagos inserts what appear to be auto-biographical touches in nearly every track, but it's ok to sit back and enjoy the ride, watching the scenery as it rolls past.
The wonderful sounds of Brothertiger may be heard here.