Toronto’s The Box Tiger released their first full-length album four years after forming. It’s understandable it’s taken some time—the band underwent a massive revamp after the release of their 2010 EP. Set Fire shows off a smoother, more mature sound, proving that some things are worth the wait.
Gone are some of the more jarring and abrupt notes. Lead Sonia Sturino has found a way to show off her Karen Oh-esque voice instead of hiding it behind the band’s then-punk-like sound. With a poppier take on their music, Sturino is finally singing and the band is creating hooks that really grab your attention.
Things kick off immediately with “Bleeding Hart” as the album plunges into its high energy pop punk fusion. Sturino’s voice grabs your attention from the very first note and holds it as the song powers on. “The Hollows” takes on a darker rock vibe as Sturino quiets down and the bass and drums do the heavy lifting on the song.
“Set Fire To Your Friends” sounds like genuinely bad advice, but the song brings things back to the band’s new pop direction with this indie rock foray. “Hospital Choir” stands out with its stripped-down instrumentation—Sturino’s haunting vocals over the chorus are matched perfectly by the light-handedness of the guitar and drums on this bittersweet track.
“Knives” is the first single off the album. It’s darker and more rock-driven than some of the other tracks, sounding much more like some of their older songs. At the same time, it’s catchy and puts Sturino’s ability to yelp to good use. The beat on “Taller Than The Trees” separates the song from the rest of the songs, relying on percussion and the ability of the vocals to match the three-beat tempo being set.
The chorus on “Maker,” with its simplistic lyrics of “no one’s sticking up for me” has serious earworm potential. The music picks up and there’s a slight shift in the vocals that grabs attention. “Julian” is another slow song that seems to be evoking Florence and the Machine—and stands in stark contrast to everything else going on in the album.
“See-Through Hole” brings things back to the pop rock heart of Set Fire. Closer “Unmasked” sees the band sounding more like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs–a good source of inspiration for Sturino’s particular voice.
Sturino’s vocals are suited to an edgier sound than many of the current indie singers out there and Set Fire is at its best when the vocals and music use that to their advantage. While the album fades in a couple of places, it shines whenever it sticks to poppy beats and hooks and if the band keeps moving in this direction they could really be onto something.
Top Tracks: “Hospital Choir”; “Taller Than The Trees”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)