Posted by: Necci – May 08, 2012
The problem with modern music is that tracks are often singular, over-hyped, marginally talented carbon-copied efforts. Perhaps I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I believe an album should have at least some elements tying all the songs together. With the music-killing need for instant gratification and immediate profits, the art of composing an entire cohesive album is generally lost. The result is what you hear on 94.5FM: cookie cutter auto-tuned garbage.
Musicians in bands get better the more they play together, especially live. Composing 10 to 15 songs for one album takes tremendous dedication, if not focused effort. Playing those same songs convincingly, live, is something exponentially more tiresome. Some bands labor over the words, the playing, the polishing. You can often hear the struggle in the final submissions – forced lyrics and structure compounded by the loss of musical fervor. But now, after a few years playing together, Plants and Animals' The End of That feels solid and assured, yet vulnerable and even raw.
I first heard Plants and Animals in 2007, having been handed a copy of their EP With/Avec. Those tracks were filed with others in my rapidly growing Indie mp3 library, and were soon joined by a copy of “Bye, Bye, Bye” from their Parc Avenue full-length disc. “Bye, Bye, Bye” [not an N'Sync cover, thank goodness-ed.] drove Parc Avenue and got the Canadian Plants and Animals some attention in the form of a Juno nomination. It’s clear they kept their momentum.
Listening to The End of That is a musical journey full of genre-bending contradictions. One minute I‘m scrambling to hit repeat and listen to a track again. The next I am left scratching my head, asking “Wait, how did we get here?” The mental travel between the acoustic softness of the first track “Before,” the sixth track “2010,” and the final song “Runaways” was much too quick for me. I needed a second and then a third listen. The production I initially thought was a bit dirty was actually masterfully done, vocals and lyrics getting equal billing with the myriad of pedals and effects.
The album grows on you and the band weaves the songs the way only a smarter and more mature band can. The lyrics are often raw with exposed emotion, woven with a common thread – introspection, regret, missed opportunity. The title track, “The End of That,” is a great example of the band’s honesty. The “Song of Love” honors the theme with its painful message of lost love and life on the road:
Oh, the road is not a home but it soothes me like a friend or a lover,
It's a chance to convalesce in a van, drink some beer and recover.
Plants and Animals, like a select few others, use their somewhat disjointed nature in a way that somehow makes sophisticated sense. Plants and Animals share this unique indie space with a few peers. Bands like Wolf Parade, Band of Horses, Minus the Bear, and even Arcade Fire push the envelope and stretch our imaginations. Add the realism of emotional transparency, and Plants and Animals excels.
It’s obvious to the intent listener this Canadian trio is committed to what they do and how they do it. The End of That is raw and polished and wonderfully cathartic. Their honed musicianship allows them to push themselves creatively, explore different styles, and weave in candid lyrics. Plants and Animals makes you listen, take note, and go along for the ride. You should get this disc. Whether you like it or not, you’ll appreciate the dedication to the craft.
By Michael Rose