Single: Max Blansjaar – Red Tiger

Red Tiger, by indie pop perfectionist Max Blansjaar, is out now and it’s unsurprisingly, a carefully polished gem of a song. The third single from the upcoming album False Comforts, it plays delightfully with sonic textures throughout and shows Blansjaar to be a very particular talent indeed. Citing influences from The Velvet Underground and the Elephant Six Collective to Beck and Cate Le Bon, Max Blansjaar has created something wonderful here that lives up to the grandeur of these inspirations and shows himself to be a rare, precious, original voice that deserves to be heard more widely.  

Produced by Katie Von Schleicher alongside Market’s Nate Mendelsohn, over two weeks in Brooklyn, Red Tiger begins with languid strummed guitars which build slowly into richer atmospheres, underpinned with a subtly pulsating, underlying sonic landscape. The warp and weave of this song is sublime with Blansjaar offering wise yet oblique lyricisms in his deadpan yet affecting voice throughout. There is something of the sage-like seer about these, a curious mixture of Lambchop-esque detached tenderness and Bill Ryder-Jones indebted emotive sensitivity. When the drum kicks in though, the song reaches pure indie-pop poise, the understated but elegant melody clinging to the shifted rhythm.

The production adornments are subtle but full of intrigue, each new strand subtly building the delicious melodiousness of the whole thing, secret sounds dripping in quietly like the rain on the windscreen. A graceful, stately piano line arrives that adds yet more restrained richness to proceedings which shift into surprising chord structures and harmonics. When the distorted guitar erupts there is a real sense of cathartic, discordant energy, its vibrating hum of sawing noise dominant and strangely visual. Everything in the song is done for a reason though, this burning counterpoint makes the quiet that breaks straight after even more affecting and intimate.

There’s almost a Brechtian/Weillian rhythm to the barrel organ waltzes that drift in quietly, as if from another room, towards the song’s close with those almost imperceptible scuffed crackles of lo-fi distortion offering further immersive possibilities. Perhaps the influence of Black Rider era Waits is hinted at here – though in reality there are few shared sonic signposts. As for the odd ragtime of the pianos at the song’s disjointed coda – it feels like a song haunted by surprising visions where bursts of radio static add to the curious unease.  The shadow of early Cohen also lurks in the curious imagery and ‘old head on young shoulders’ presence found throughout. The words are unsettling at times and rich in imagery, but these create space that allow the listener to immerse and question; it feels poetic but also unaffected but there is certainly an artfulness at play beyond everyday singer-songwriter introspection. This feels like a new voice at play. 

Red Tiger feels obsessed over in the best possible sense. There’s nothing fussy or contrived though and everything feels possessed of a relaxed intimacy. But, when these sounds gather in the headphones, there is so much enriching subtlety going on; every detail counts. This is beautiful, natural songwriting produced with precision, that voice a thing of muted, cracked beauty.

The final line is, “Oh, it doesn’t matter,” but this is music that really does matter a great deal. This feels important. The album is sure to be something to explore, on the strength of this song it may well be one to cherish. Be kind to yourself today and go and listen to the music of Max Blansjaar; it will be time well spent.

Written by M.A Welsh (Misophone)