Those familiar with Tearjerker’s early albums like Strangers (2010) and Rare (2011), might smile at the band’s most focused and refined work yet being given the title Stay Wild. The reverb haze in which Tearjerker bathed their first records in began to recede on their dusty glowing Hiding EP – which, after initially being self-released, was picked up by the now defunct SQE Music and put out on 12” in May of last year – revealing more of the character at the core of Micah Bonte, Trevor Hawkins, and Taylor Shute’s songwriting.
Recorded in rooms and practice spaces, as Tearjerker have always done, Stay Wild emanates a sense of closeness even in its most stirring moments. With its low cruising rhythm and rising group vocals, “The Gardiner” is like a great lost track from You Forgot It in People, as if Broken Social Scene were huddled around a single microphone. As Hiding ably showed, the band have a way of keenly articulating the small experiences that matter within interpersonal relationships. The deceptively upbeat “Phone” is one example, centering on a simple question: “Is it too much for you to pick it up/when we both know you never put it down?”
There are no weak links on Stay Wild, which builds on the group’s strengths but also expands their playbook in subtle ways, like the linear structure of “Phone” or the lo-fi Hip Hop beat behind the big-chorused “Baseball”. Like the lyrics/music contrast in “Phone”, “Baseball” seems to playfully invert Hip Hop’s built-in machismo with its second verse, “I was talking shit/I took my shirt off/And I stepped outside/I was acting tough and/They knew I was bluffing.”
Stay Wild peaks in its final stretch, from the circular guitar riff meditation of first single “Obviously Wrong” to the touching, vulnerable sing-along “Heavy”. “Since the summer is the shortest season/It’s up to you and me to give it meaning”, goes “Perfect” in between. The patience that Tearjerker have shown in getting to this point, roughly five years on from their debut, shows they are likely less worried about the ticking clock itself than with making sure the time spent has all been worth it.