Plumbiferous Media

La La Land – Plants and Animals

Apr 22nd 2010
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La La Land - Plants and AnimalsPlants and Animals
La La Land
Score: 52

Quebec indie band Plants and Animals released their second EP, La La Land, on Tuesday. La La Land is noisier than the band’s earlier work, but is still recognizably the same sort of sound as characterized Plants and Animals last album, Parc Avenue, which was nominated for the Polaris Award. Unfortunately, that sound has matured less than it has simply increased in complexity. As such, La La Land has its successes, but is weighed down by mediocrity.

To a certain extent, Plants and Animals has made a fairly perplexing album. At first glance, La La Land is, for its title, surprisingly deep. The band seems to have done an excellent job with the overall sound, creating a very diverse, stylized experience. The relatively dense music has clear strong points, most notably, the great sax solo of “American Idol” and the powerful crescendo of the following track, “Undone Melody.”

The quality of the sound discovered just by glancing over the album then makes one start really paying attention to La La Land. This, however, is a problem. While there are some excellent sections, much of the individual instrumental lines seem to fall into one of two categories. Either they are repetitive and uninteresting, or they match the vocals to enough of an extent that they don’t manage to create any of their own character. This revealed pedestrian aspect to the album, of course, has the effect of making the listener concentrate less on the album, at which point it begins to sound interesting again, the process of listening to the album quickly becoming cyclic. The best example of the album’s oscillating tendencies is with “The Mama Papa,” which from the start sounds promising, at least until its repetitiveness sinks in, at which point the track sticks in some nice descending sequences, only to ultimately turn out to be quite dull.

Vocal lead Warren Spicer’s voice certainly meshes well with the style and tempo of the instrumentals. However, as the instrumentals are rarely more than middling, this doesn’t necessarily improve the album. Instead, Spicer’s voice tends to fall into the background, further exasperating the album’s problems with retaining the listener’s interest. To be fair, that’s more of a failing of the instrumentals than the vocals, which, when they’re interesting, demonstrate that Spicer has a decent singing voice. At other times, however, they’re irritatingly breathy and punctuated by a sort of affected emphasis – “Kon Tiki” is probably the worst offender. On average, the vocals come out as little more than unexceptional.

Lyrically, La La Land is neither amazing nor terrible. The album’s opening track, “Tom Cruz,” contains a few interesting turns of phrase, but that’s more than counteracted by “American Idol”‘s “I want to be your American Idol / And can’t you see me just hanging out with Simon.” After that, partially thanks to the album’s failure to remain interesting, the lyrics fluctuate between repetition and general mundaneness, which matches the rest of the album nicely, but certainly doesn’t contribute to it.

As a whole, La La Land seems to be very superficially interesting, as is perhaps fitting, given its title. Plants and Animals may certainly have done a terrific job editing and mixing, choosing patches, creating highly themed tracks, and so on, but they’ve left a lot to be desired when it comes to individual elements. The instrumentals are, on a whole, mundane, the vocals have their fair share of problems, the lyrics are generally less than spectacular, and so, as a whole, the album simply cannot be all that great.

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