Reviews Music Plants and Animals — La La Land

Plants and Animals — La La Land

Plants and Animals - La La Land
Plants and AnimalsLa La Land
Secret City Records; 2010
11 Tracks; CD, LP


Review by: Lee Fraser

After listening to their second full-length album, I wondered: Will the members of Plant and Animals ever return to Parc Avenue from La La Land?

No doubt about it, Warren C. Spicer, Matthew Woodley, and Nicolas Basque of Plants and Animals are all talented and musically adventurous guys. Their first full-length album, Parc Avenue, was full of fun, sing-able tunes, giving you the impression that they were experimenting (very successfully) with various instruments and vocals. The album doesn't tell a story so much as give you a buffet of musical styles and sounds: operatic themes, campfire acoustics, sing-along chants, lush polyrhythmic sub-Saharan sounds, children singing, strings, horns, some fancy guitar picking... a true mélange of delicious music.

That being said, anticipating their second full-length album was filled with excitement and just a hint of concern. Plants and Animals toured Europe, the U.S., and Canada extensively in 2008/2009 and time on the road often affords a band the chance to try out new ideas, refine particular sounds and moods, and determine what it is they want to capture on their next record. In the case of La La Land, it seems that the boys have further explored what they are really good at: the moodiness (especially in songs "Celebration" and "Undone Melody"), the sweet guitar riffs scattered liberally, and the prominent melodic drumming. Like Parc Avenue, there’s a smattering of piano, horns, strings, and female vocalists, even some voice modulation on "Future from the 80's", but on La La Land, it's as if they found the most suitable fit for these audio treasures, rather than experimenting with them.

La La Land is more polished, more professional, and beautifully arranged. There is more of a flow from song to song with almost every track leading smoothly into the next. Is this due to the long-time collaboration between the band and their engineers, Kees Dekker and Gilles Castilloux? Is it maturity in the musicianship that has developed from time on the road? Could it be some unknown influence in California, something that perhaps took place at the Kon Tiki Inn?

Whatever the reasoning behind it, Plants and Animals have still managed to put together a group of songs to prompt you to ponder life's little oddities and the angst and tribulations experienced in relationships. I have listened to "The Mama Papa" enough times to know what it is about, you would think, but it still leaves me puzzled; a good topic of discussion to be had with fellow Plants and Animals fans. I'm looking forward to hearing "American Idol" live, and I can see why "Tom Cruz" is getting fair radio play. As for the rest of the album, they are all well-crafted songs, but I don’t know that I would be able to hum any of them in a moment's notice like I can with most of the tunes on "Parc Avenue". But perhaps that will come with the repeated listens that this album will receive.

Our next chance to experience them live is coming soon: Plants and Animals play The Opera House, June 24th.