"What's gonna happen to you?/You have forgotten to sing/and found the world rearranged/and now you're feeling so changed..."
With that introduction, Plants and Animals usher you into the world of "Parc Avenue," full of pastoral psychedelic shoegazer experimental-folk sea-chanty indie-rock. Yeah, they have some issues with picking a style, but this Montreal trio spins an adorably expansive little debut album that melds the earthy with the vaguely transcendent.
It opens with a Coldplayish piano ballad, blossoming into a soaring pop chorale like a condemning angelic choir. Warren Spicer's raw-edged vocals rise over the vibrant melody, telling us that "Today I saw a shadow/and I had the feeling you'd be another... we would not help ourselves/it's really easy to do/we never needed to..." punctuated by softer interludes.
They slip into a mellower, urgent rock sound in the uneasy, string-draped "Good Friend," and the ethereal rambling "Faerie Dance." Actually, they dabble in a new sound for almost every song -- 70s-style rock'n'roll, lush pastoral pop, haunting ballads, a wild joyous jam with a horn-riddled hallucinatory sound, a hyperactive sea shanty, and an acid-tinged finale that seems to be a celebration of electric guitar riffs.
If I had to find something to criticize about "Parc Avenue," it would be that this Montreal band is still finding their distinctive style -- although the album leans a bit more heavily on pastoral psychedelic jams in the second half. Plants and Animals bounce smoothly from retro rock'n'roll to a lush psychedelic style, and then over into some mellow unfolding jam sessions. I don't usually like jam bands, but this one was dense and intense enough to keep me listening.
Dense and intense are the best words -- we have a perpetually building fog of acoustic and electric riffs, sometimes hazed in distortion, flowing together or "wah-wah-wahing" through the song. Some nice drums, shimmers of faint synth, some plinks of aggressive piano. But the standout is the expanses of shimmering strings, taking the earthy guitar work up into the realm of musical transcendence. Nice stuff, and done expertly.
And while Spicer's raw, mildly mournful voice sometimes says some lame lines ("I was working hard, but hardly workin'"), the lyrics are solid stuff for the most part ("The fantasy under the tree/got woken up by birds and bees... there might be rain, but not for certain..."). And his vocals get an extra boost from the soaring backing vocals, whether as a backing chant or a chorale explosion.
"Parc Avenue" is quite good for a good debut, though Plants and Animals still seem to be feeling out their territory. And along the way, they've produced some solid, enjoyable music.
My second favourite album of 2008/09 after Fleet Foxes. This record is Genius, if you like band of horses, songs ohia, acorn etc... buy this. Although this record has a bit more depth than some of the afore mentioned. Truly wonderful collection of songs.. Did I mention that it's genius?!