Generally speaking, iTunes’ free songs of the week don’t provide people with insight into great music they’ve never heard of before (and does anyone even download the free song of the week anymore? Or use iTunes, for that matter?). But once in a blue moon it happens, and for me it was with the band Republic Tigers. On September 14, 2008, iTunes released the Tigers song “Buildings and Mountains” as their freebie of the week and I was instantly hooked. The band has this singularly sombre and otherworldly sound to it that I can’t describe as sounding like any other band.
Part of what makes their sound so intriguing to hear is that, for the most part, the instruments are entirely unidentifiable, with the exception of standout guitar riffs and chords that pop like bursts of color in the middle of a track. Additionally, with three of the five band members on both vocals and guitar, each song ends up with a layered quality. The timbre of what appears to be one voice is actually a compilation of three simultaneous voices echoing majestically through most of their songs. While it was “Buildings and Mountains” that initially roped me in, “Give Arm To Its Socket,” “Air Guitar” and “Weatherbeaten” remain my favorite songs. “Weatherbeaten” in particular is perfect for any UR student who’s upset about lake effect — it’s always on repeat on my iPod during the winter.
The downside of being a Republic Tigers fan is that, since their debut in 2008 with their album “Keep Color,” they still haven’t released a second album — beyond an EP in 2011 — and at this rate maybe never will. It’s frustrating to really like a band and want to see them progress but have them leave you out in the cold. Hailing from Kansas City, Mo, they’re part of a slim margin of successful artists from middle America, although given their unwashed, hipster physiques they have the right look to fit in with a New York or Los Angeles fan base.
Sklar is a member of the class of 2014.