Miniature Tigers recorded their first album in Phoenix, AZ, a town whose landlocked sprawl forced the musicians to create their own geography. Tell It to the Volcano conjured up images of tropical islands and communal campfires, using acoustic guitars and casual, breezy melodies to dream up a landscape that looked nothing like the band’s home. Fortress, the group’s second album, sketches a different picture. What was once casual is now complex; what was formerly indebted to 1960s pop now takes cues from 21st century groups like Animal Collective and Of Montreal. For starters, the guys have left the Southwest and relocated to Brooklyn, and they’ve boosted their acoustics with a newfound love for synthesizers and experimental arrangements. They’ve also reached out to bands like Neon Indian, who produced the leisurely leadoff single “Gold Skull,” and the Morning Benders, whose frontman, Christopher Chu, produced the rest. It isn’t hard to draw similarities between Chu’s group and Miniature Tigers; both bands relocated to Brooklyn after leaving their western headquarters, and both decided to build upon the relatively sparse sound of their debuts. But while the Morning Benders’ second album, Big Echo, explored a swooning, kaleidoscopic sound without burying Chu’s melodies, Fortress falls prey to its own production, with the vocals often taking a back seat role. The album is certainly more in vogue than Tell It to the Volcano -- its blippy keyboards and amorphous arrangements sound very 2010 -- but that doesn’t keep it from sounding less gratifying than the band’s debut, which prized a good pop hook above all else.
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey