By: Sarah Moore
Plants and Animals' lush pop orchestrations and psychedelic rock and roll leanings make their February release, Parc Avenue (Secret City Records), one of the more intriguing discs of the year. High school bandmates Warren C. Spicer (lead vocals, guitar) and Matthew Woodley ("The Woodman" on drums) met Nicolas Basque (vocals, guitar, piano, bass) in the music department at Montreal's Concordia University, and the core of Plants and Animals formed. They got together with neighbors, jamming and trying out sounds, reigning in wild and Hobbesian sounds into tightly knit, focused jams and sprawling rock & roll. In this way, the collective is constantly in flux, "pruning" their sounds as they allow their music to develop.
The first song on the album, "Bye Bye Bye," thankfully bears no sonic resemblance to 'N Sync's tune of the same name. A quiet piano ballad begins the piece before opening into a grand-scale orchestra complete with background choir. The almost sacred feeling comes with the choir adding requisite "aahhhs" as well as the smaller-scale autoharp that breaks up the gigantic sounds. Epic "New Kind of Love" takes its delicious acoustic guitar pop to Arcade Fire proportions as camaraderie with fellow friend musicians gets caught up in their delivery of an expanding and dynamics-increasing process. Some of the Arcade Fire sound makes sense as band member Sarah Neufeld wrote and performed string arrangements on several tracks. A bowed-bass gives a didgeridoo effect to a sprightly, woodwind exit at just under eight minutes.
The band shows many sides, going from lofty and ethereal ("Fairie Dance") to low and driving ("Feedback in the Field"). This is not to say that the album has no consistency. Spicer's warm tenor coats each song with a special otherworldly luster, and the vibrant harmonies create a constant poignancy. Although the band tends to prefer terms like "post-classic rock" to "jam band," their ability to follow certain tangents and take them somewhere leads them down jam-rock territory. Take for example guitar- noodle-heavy "Guru," the album closer. However, what one calls their music matters little against what makes the music great.
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