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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