Many acoustic-based duos can be easy to write off. Complaints of overused musical elements and generic melodies are some mainstream staples that acoustic artists usually have to deal with, unless you’re in the elite ranks of Simon & Garfunkel. Unlike many acoustic legends of the past, “acoustic” is modernly written to classify the acoustic guitar as the main ingredient, not the only one. Of course, flour isn’t the only ingredient we use when we bake a cake. Easy Tiger is the latest duo with relevance, traditionally consisting of two friends from the musically active city of Chicago, Illinois. Russell Baylin plays the part of lead vocals and lyrics, providing the rhythm guitar. Dan Wean plays the vital role of lead guitarist, lending his unique musical songwriting talents to complement Baylin’s engaging lyrics and lively melodies. Prior to the formation of Easy Tiger, the duo had participated in bands together for about seven continuous years, with the majority being more electric and alternative than their Easy Tiger project. After a numerous amount of band attempts, they decided to move into a different direction that they felt was more in-depth and emotional, eventually deciding on their acoustically charged duo. Baylin has a range that is both impressive and risky, reaching some notes that perhaps would sound better suited for a track with more layers. Risks aside, The fact remains though that his snarling and aggressive vocals add the signature tone to Easy Tiger that separates them from most generic acoustic bands of the Midwest.
‘The Best and the Worst Compliment You Could Ever Make’ is a fantastic opener to their second album, Papa Had Some Fury. Baylin tells the tale of an insecure husband in the middle of a marriage where he loses his feelings of love for his wife, but still respects her too much to leave. “I don’t mind, she gently said, I don’t mind if you look bad,” Baylin drags out, “open up a window and open up your mind and come to bed”. Baylin’s depiction of this husband in pain is shown through lyrical and vocal compassion, as he recognizes happiness only in the form of “sleeping late”, even while his wife “stays up for me, she waits”. The song is complex enough to hold its own for the four minutes of duration, with a jumpy chorus that is untypical of the preceding verse, though it still fits effectively in key due to to Wean’s songwriting. ‘Sylvia’ and ‘For How Long’ are both typical love songs, with a few Western-esque one liners that are worth repeating twice, from ‘Sylvia”s “I don’t know, but does gin and tonic count as emotion?” to ‘For How Long’s desperate plee of redemption. ‘Sylvia’ boasts a nice guitar solo, defying all assumptions that Easy Tiger are strictly and simply acoustic. Papa Had Some Fury was a very pleasant surprise for me, and while Baylin’s vocals may initially turn off some listeners, many will begin to appreciate the diversity, causing the end result to be quite a success. The album actually released in 2004 and the band was on hiatus for much of 2005 due to some back issues with Wean. After Wean’s full recovery, the duo signed with Paperwork and are currently recording their third album, which is set to be released in 2007.