Saturday, July 17, 2010

Plants and Animals - La La Land (2010)

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Before the release of their sophomore album La La Land, I had never heard of Montreal rock trio Plants and Animals. It wasn't until after seeing them on a list on Stereogum of anticipated releases then reading a feature on them in the latest issue of Filter Magazine that I decided to give the album a listen. Lead track "Tom Cruz" has driving bass lines and a bit of a soft-rock vibe with a little hard rock edge that keeps it from being merely background music. "Swinging Bells" begins with these floaty dreamlike chords and open quality, getting a bit more involved with drum fills, adding these shout vocals that somehow don't manage to disrupt the dreamy quality of the track, before fading out accompanied by a whistling solo. The sudden plunge into the energetic "American Idol" might be a bit jarring after the two calmer tracks but makes the track no less enjoyable. Six-minute "Undone Melody" slows the album down, continuing with its inclusion of more than the standard guitar/bass/drum set up by adding in piano and tiny smidges of sweeping strings. The track starts off simple and slowly unravels into something complex and lyrical. "Kon Tiki" follows with this kind of energetic mellow first achieved in lead track "Tom Cruz" and the instrumental breaks have these cool melodic lines that I found to be far too short. "Game Shows" continues the album's calm mood with guitar and barely there piano accompanying the vocals. The track picks up slightly about midway through with the addition of strings, bass, and drums. There's also a piano solo that moves the track towards a more upbeat sound and is taken up by the rest of the instruments before the track fades out. Just like "American Idol" was kind of surprising after the slow tracks, "The Mama Papa" does the same. It features the most prominent guitar heard on the album and is probably the most poppy track in the sense that you could clap or dance to it if you felt so inclined. "Fake It" brings the tempo down a bit but not in a sudden manner, if fact it seems like a natural progression from the previous track. With a title like "Celebration" you expect the track to be uptempo but instead it's the opposite with a lilting, entrancing quality aided by the background sounds. "Future From The 80s" is slow and soft and with occasional robot voice effects with strings and muted brass. Album closer "Jeans Jeans Jeans" brings the tempo up again but not shockingly so. There's about a minute before the vocals enter, and when they do, it's not for very long. The track has some guitar effects and possible waterphone that create these fleeting almost imagined moments of ethereality.

Plants and Animals employ alot of interesting tricks and such on La La Land like saxophone solos on "American Idol" and whistling solos on "Swinging Bells" but what really struck me was the melodic content and guitar work as opposed to the lyrics, which I will admit I couldn't always make out/make sense of. Each track has these little music moments that really catch your attention like the various mood shifts in "Tom Cruz" and this guitar riff that happens right before the track returns to the original. The album has a general cohesiveness only broken by the more uptempo tracks. I literally jumped when "American Idol" and "The Mama Papa" started due to the fact that the tracks before them were so soft. The album has an overall dream-like sense that makes it seem like its could be the soundtrack for a dream with the upbeat tracks representing the more action-packed parts. I don't know quite how to explain it for there's this little things in the guitar parts that create this airy, unreal nature. It's not one of those albums that'll catch your attention if you listen to samples of it (which I foolishly did at first) but rather one where you notice more and more happening with each subsequent listen like a complex movie. That's not to say that the album is unnecessarily complex but that there's these little gems that happen, that you might not notice on the first or even second listen.

Get a taste of Plants and Animals and the new album with the video of first single "The Mama Papa" here.

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