Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes, a four-piece based not near its regional namesake, but in Nashville, Tenn., is a rock and roll band driven by a fiercely independent collective spirit and whiskey shots. Their sophomore album, Kid Tiger, arrives three years after their self-funded debut LP Civilized Man charted on Amazon MP3’s best albums of the year list. Although not quite at raucous as their (often-self-booked) live shows, Kid Tiger is a high-energy release of danceable, feel-good indie rock tunes.
With synths like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and a rock and roll rhythm section fitting for Nashville’s growing underground scene, Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes is a product of various musical influences, past and present. At times, Ellsworth yelps like Raconteurs-era Jack White (he pushes the limit of his vocal range in “Idle Warning”) and at other times guitarist Timon Lance’s distorted lead riffs scream and howl like a light version of The Mars Volta (“Little Light”). Elsewhere, “Fits and Starts” is appropriately skittish but kept aligned by Joel Wren’s meticulous drumming. With Grammy award-winning Vance Powell (Jack White, Kings of Leon) engineering, Kid Tiger sounds crisp enough to accentuate the band’s playing (particularly Marshall Skinner’s bass lines that are in fact, fairly complex), yet scuzzy enough to prove that everything was recorded live in the studio. Even though individual tracks elicit such wildly different musical comparisons, Kid Tiger feels surprising consistent, cozily melding keyboard dance-pop and guitar-rock in a way that’s genuine and exciting.