"Wolves" is probably the album's best song, as it takes this emotion and focuses it. There's a churning bass and guitar in lockstep, joined by a delicate keyboard plinking, and then a straight guitar hook rotation. Jackson's delivery of the opening line is spot on: "She said, 'When will you learn/Wolves don't howl at the moon, they howl at each other.'" Later he growls and snarls in lupine fashion before showing just how desperate he is: "Maybe I'll go out and see AOK Suicide Forest . . . and when I get home I'll pray you pass by/Will you pass by?"
Throughout the album, there's a wonderful push and pull between a desire to feel loved and a tortured resentment of that desire. It creates tension that's always prodded by Tony Leighton's driving high hat and snares (Leighton has since left the band, replaced for now by Marie Stella's Max Heinz).
It's what allows the mid-album, 12-minute "The Feed" to make sense, all blips, and bloops, and digital drone: "It's 3 am in Portland, Maine/And the sky is changing." And it makes the guy-girl vocals of "Hit Hard," Burkhart writing the only lyrics here not by Jackson, really pull at you, Jackson like an auctioneer amping up the value of a rare piece of china.
Really, the album rises and falls with Jackson. It breathes with his lungs and is charged by his energy. In the fast-paced firework that is "20 Minutes," he is for a couple minutes more Morrissey than anything else, with a hint of "16, clumsy, and shy," then so much more: "Oh I feel so sexy . . . I don't want to stop burning."
A tiger, burning bright. Works for me.
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at email@example.com.
I LOVE MUSIC | Released by Hi Tiger | with Marie Stella + Sunset Hearts | at the Empire, in Portland | Aug 5 | hitigermusic.com
CORRECTION The original version of this article misrepresented the story described in the Hi Tiger song "Nukes," and it has been updated to include a clearer recounting.