Carina Round – Tigermending

written by: April 26, 2012
Release Date: May 1st, 2012


In a field of tall ferns, half a dozen tigers lie sprawled on top of one another, dead. At the foot of the corpses, three women in traditional work dress stitch and string together their torn underbellies. This is the painting that accompanies the Aimee Bender short story that Carina Round claims inspired the album title. It’s bizarre, a little unnerving and even amusing in its blatant absurdity–an eclectic mix of emotions, all to be found in Tigermending. It’s been five years since her last full-length record Slow Motion Addict and for the thirty-three-year-old Los Angeles via Wolverhampton songstress it was “time and freedom to experiment and explore.” Part of her perennial gift is her ability to meld an infectious songwriting ear with exploratory surprise, she seems to inhabit a place just ahead of prediction.

For the lighthearted, Tigermending doesn’t open easily, “Pick up the phone/ I’m pregnant with your baby/I wanted you to know/ The dreams I’ve been having lately,” (“Pick Up the Phone”) and it doesn’t let down from this agitation for a while. Like a novelist trying to get past the first line, Round is competent once it’s out. The album blooms with flangering guitars and vocals, trembling basslines and strained effects. Horns, atonal pianos and a host of electronics inspire the stirring atmospherics of Tigermending. Debatably, this is Round’s most versatile, innovative and lyrically spellbinding effort to date. Though the artist is often compared to PJ Harvey and Patti Smith,  Tigermending takes more of its cues from the playbook of art rock, inhabiting a persona and forgetting the self. There are also elements of howling Smithean confession and maybe even classic soul with vampy melodies, descending horns and testimonial crescendo. She builds her energy until she’s positively shouting on the mournful, “You and Me,” while on “The Last Time” her gorgeous, tremulous lilt pours out half-baked, bad-good similes, “I hung like a tongue from my open-mouth window.”

The more traditional rocky belly of the album is dominated by warped, soaring guitar lines, stormy synthscapes and stomp-along beats. The shape of Tigermending is a little uneven, which is not to say Round doesn’t pull it off. It begins in nebulousness, melds into defiant outpouring and ends in grim, bittersweet reflection. Everyone loves a Brian Eno collaboration, but “The Secret of Drowning,” a churlish production done with Eurythmics alum Dave Stewart is near sublime use of ambience, a result that could not have happened without Round becoming embedded in the Los Angeles scene. Being among and collaborating with Left-coast artists has opened up her sound, making it deeper and multitudinously more intricate.

Round has a penchant for soul-bearing, no matter how ugly and unquaint that truth might be. What resonates is a sort of persistent disquiet, that would be sinister were it not for the artist’s even-handed confrontation of it. These songs assuage and speak to the listener. The excellent single, “Set Fire,” where Round incants in ancient tones over distant acoustic strumming, “Your words came down in tatters and flames/ And it’s the closest I’ve felt/ To a song destroying me,” suggests the effect. Even though Tigermending bottles up that signature Round darkness, it’s never without redemption. She has something powerful here, something under her hands, but it could be honed into something more.

Carina Round – Tigermending tracklist:

  1. “Pick Up the Phone”
  2. “The Last Time”
  3. “The Girl and the Ghost”
  4. “You and Me”
  5. “Set Fire”
  6. “You Will Be Loved”
  7. “Marcel Marcel”
  8. “Weird Dream”
  9. “Mother’s Pride”
  10. “The Secret of Drowning”
  11. “Simplicity Hurts”