Miniature Tigers' 2012 effort, Mia Pharaoh, was a cheeky, somewhat lo-fi, '70s disco-inflected album that made the most of the group's knack for kitschy, vintage-inspired productions and catchy melodies. The group's follow-up and fourth studio album, 2014's Cruel Runnings, continues in this retro-fun vein, albeit with a more sophisticated studio aesthetic. With a sound originally born out of lead singer/songwriter Charles Brand's lo-fi home demos, Miniature Tigers have grown into a full-fledged band. Here, working with producer Chris Zane (Walkmen, Nelly Furtado, Passion Pit), Brand takes the transformation one step further, moving Miniature Tigers toward an organic pop/rock sound that balances his earlier guitar power pop-influenced sound with his more recent discovery of disco and dance-club soul. Cuts like '80s synth pop-inspired "Oblivious" and the groove-oriented, dorm room R&B of "Dream Girl," are immediately infectious, slightly daft, and eminently danceable confections that sound like something along the lines of Prince if he were produced by the Strokes' Julian Casablancas. They scream to be played under the reflections of a sparkling disco ball. And despite the added production prowess from Zane, Brand hasn't lost any of his pop culture-inspired sense of humor. On the saucy "UTBTS," he croons, "Our love was warm like a VHS tape of Aladdin/Now our love's so cold, Laser Disc of Cruel Intentions." The album title alone -- a play on words of the title to the 1993 comedy about the 1988 Olympic Jamaican bobsled team Cool Runnings -- speaks to Brand's love of kitschy references and cheeky musical ideas. This aspect is nicely juxtaposed with the group’s slick sense of style; much of the album is infused with a Casablancas-meets-RSO Records aesthetic circa 1980. Ultimately, it’s just that style, matched with musical substance, that helps Cruel Runnings register as a lot more than just retro hipster pastiche.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar