Bae Tigre finished tied for No. 9 overall in our 2015 Picked to Click tally with 23 points. Click here to read profiles on this year's other 11 winning acts.
According to the Chinese zodiac, people born in the Year of the Tiger are brave, confident, and indomitable. This year fell under the sign of the sheep, but for tiger-born bedroom artist Ranelle Johnson, 2015 has been an awakening of her true big-cat spirit.
"If I could choose a spirit animal, it'd be the tiger," she says. "I just like how it stands for courage and independence."
After the dissolution of her previous project, TIGER VS., Johnson went as independent as she could, retreating to her basement for her new solo project, Bae Tigre. In that self-imposed isolation, she recorded her breakthrough album, 2014's Memoirs of a Happy Drifting Chemical. In June came Perennial Bygones, a 10-song mystifier led by the dreamy, triumphant single, "I'm a Tiger."
But Johnson's grandiose overtures are too big to be holed up in a basement. After a flood and a stubborn slumlord forced her out of her old apartment, she bought her own house in Northeast, where she's currently working on building her Bae Tigre recording booth. There, she's hoping to keep the momentum of the last year rolling into a new record that will be out "before the snow melts."
"Like many artists, I have phases," Johnson says. "Right now, I'm going through a creative cycle, and I'm embracing it. I just wanna get it all out there at once."
Part of Bae Tigre's growth has been getting comfortable with people entering her isolation chamber. The impulse to expand is something Johnson probably gets from her day job as a music therapist.
"I learn a lot from the clients I work with. It's a relationship," she says. "This year, I've done a lot of growth in relationships, in general, and I feel like I've gotten closer to people."
Two of the relationships she's fostered are with drummer Katharine Seggerman and multi-instrumentalist Jenessa LaSota, who will complete the Bae Tigre lineup going forward. Johnson doesn't know where their group collaboration will head sonically, but she foresees the next iteration of Bae Tigre being much more explosive — braver and more indomitable, if you will — than the pensive shoegaze she'd forged before she opened up the tiger den.
"The last album was kind of wispy and pretty," she says. "I want to go louder and distorted. Get some of that rage out."