Music Review

Mary Timony – Untame the Tiger *Merge Records

todayFebruary 22, 2024 103 1

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By – Kristi Houk

Recommended if you like: Wild Flag, Kristin Harsh, Margaret Glassy, Liz Phair

“You really can’t love without letting go…” 

-Mary Timony

Ain’t it the truth? There are many of these “truths” circling Timony’s latest release, Untame the Tiger, her first solo album in 15 years.  Not that she hasn’t been making kick ass music since then – she definitely has – see Wild Flag, Ex Hex, among others.

I am a long time fan of Timony’s work. As a twenty something in the 90’s, working in music retail, I discovered her second band Helium, the highly influential and understated indie rock band from that time that went all but overlooked in a world of Veruca Salt’s and Bikini Kills.  It’s Tmony’s solo work, though, that I connect with most. There’s a minimal quality to the guitar playing – she’s a guitar prodigy if you didn’t know – and with a degree in English Literature, it’s no surprise that she has a way with words; her lyrics can both startle and cut to the bone. She also has the uncanny ability to evoke a sense of place within her work as if you are right there with her sharing the moment however triumphant or terrifying.

An example is the opening track off Untame the Tiger ,“No Thirds” – there’s a sense of upheaval, a longing to be swept away on an open road, driving through a wind swept desert banging on the steering wheel, windows down. Timony has stated that this album is about loss and the grief that comes with losing someone – in her case – a long relationship and both of her parents. Not to be glib, but that’s a heavy load to carry, and on Untame there seems to be this cosmic leaning or surrender to what we cannot control as humans. and learning how to face your grief is a work in progress. “Time to meet the mountain, there’s no other way out.” The beautiful wispy background vocals by Betsy Wright (Ex Hex) and Melissa Quinley gently support this urge to move on.

The production on  “Dominoes” gestures back to that lo-fi 90’s sound and fuzzy, folksy guitar with vocals way up in the mix – “My only real emotion is just suffering til the end.” I can’t help but think fellow guitar genius, Richard Thompson may have inspired this tune.

Speaking of Richard Thompson, Timony’s folk influences keep surfacing on this album.- haunting pedal steel on “The Guest” and Timony’s vocal style reminds me of another favorite Linda Thompson, with some punk-y Ray Davies guitar mixed in. Hello, Loneliness, you’ve come back home You were the only one who never left me alone.”

There are some witchy, dark tinges on “Don’t Disappear”with its dissonant guitar and bass chords. “If you’re close to the edge of that emotion, Come on, fall back into my devotion” Nature is no fool and will come around to sunny skies again rather you’re ready or not.

Timony is part mystic, part punk and this fan is pumped that she is back and sharing that the only way out is through. 

Stand Out Tracks: “No Thirds,” “Dominoes,” “The Guest”

Written by: kristi houk

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