Mary Timony

Untame the Tiger


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“As an artist, you have to keep dealing with your shit. Otherwise, you can’t keep making your art.” Mary Timony

For more than 30 years, singer-songwriter and guitar hero Mary Timony has cut a distinctive path through the world of independent music, most recently as vocalist and guitarist of acclaimed garage-pop power trio Ex Hex (Merge) but also as a member of seminal post[1]punk band Autoclave (Dischord), celebrated leader of the deeply influential Helium (Matador), multifaceted solo artist (Matador, Lookout!, Kill Rock Stars), and a co-founder of supergroup Wild Flag (Merge). Described by Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein as “Mary Shelley with a guitar” and dubbed “a trailblazer and an innovator” by Lindsey Jordan a.k.a. Snail Mail, Timony has distinguished herself as one of her generation’s most influential. Although she has remained a cult hero and critical favorite since the early ’90s, Timony’s many triumphs have long been counterbalanced by crippling doubt and self-nullification.

Her fifth solo album, Untame the Tiger, approaches these emotions head on. Her first solo release in 15 years is a startling document of an artist fully coming into her own power during the fourth decade of her career. It is the product of lessons learned during life-altering struggle. The mystical, acoustic-driven Untame the Tiger emerged after the dissolution of a long-term relationship and was bookended by the deaths of Timony’s father and mother. The album was recorded during a two-year period during which she was the primary caregiver for her ailing parents. The tectonic psychic shift Mary experienced due to this loss informs many of her lyrics.

Standout track “No Thirds” “is a song about losing everything and having to keep on going,” says Timony. “I wanted the verses to sound like a wide-open barren space, like driving across a desert, because that is what the song is about—losing people and the feeling that your future is a giant, wide-open blank space.” The stripped-back acoustic instrumentation of “The Guest” conjures Sweetheart-era Byrds. Timony describes it as a song sung directly to loneliness: “I was imagining loneliness as a house guest who keeps knocking on your door. I thought it would be funny to say loneliness is the only one who always comes back.”

Untame the Tiger does not eschew Timony’s guitar hero reputation; in fact, “Summer” relishes in it, a straight-up banger that you’d be half tempted to call “no frills” until its initial garage rock stomp breaks into the unexpected bliss of a twin guitar solo conclusion. “I wanted the recording to have the energy of the Kinks, early Dio and Elf, or Rory Gallagher,” she explains. “I was also listening to a lot of Gerry Rafferty’s first solo album and was inspired to have two simultaneous guitar solos.” Untame the Tiger picks up the thread woven through Timony’s freak-folk-anticipating solo albums of the early ’00s. Basic tracks were recorded at Studio 606 in Los Angeles, with Timony backed by Dave Mattacks, drummer of legendary British folk-rock band Fairport Convention. “Mattacks is a hero of mine and one of my favorite musicians of all time. He is a true legend.

I never in a million years thought he’d agree to play on my record,” says Timony. “Before the session, I had a panic attack and had to go sit alone in the parking lot… Once we started playing together, it felt so great that the fear subsided and turned into excitement. His playing felt instantly familiar, which makes sense because it’s the foundation of many of my favorite records.”

Untame the Tiger was produced by Mary Timony, Joe Wong, and Dennis Kane. The album was recorded over the course of two years at Studio 606, Magpie Cage, 38North, and in Mary’s basement. Additional engineering by J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines). Musicians include Chad Molter (Faraquet, Medications), David Christian (Karen O, Hospitality), and Brian Betan-court (Cass McCombs, Devendra Banhart, Hospitality). The album was mixed by Dave Fridmann (MGMT, The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev), Dennis Kane, and John Agnello

(Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, Waxahatchee).

Tracklist

Side A

1. No Thirds
2. Summer
3. Dominoes
4. Looking for the Sun
5. The Guest

Side B

6. Don’t Disappear
7. The Dream
8. Untame the Tiger
9. Not the Only One