I have this friend who, whenever I play her a new album, immediately rattles off a list of all the bands it reminds her of. Although most of the time I can completely see how the gruff edge of a singer’s voice could reminds her of The National, or how a frenzy of synthesized beats could evoke Discovery, for some reason this drives me crazy. As soon as the list becomes a weird four-part hybrid (“It’s totally like…Miike Snow meets Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear, with a little Animal Collective…”) I wonder why it can’t just be a fabulous experience of new music.
But here I have to confess; my impulse is to do the same thing with Other Lives’ new album Tamer Animals. The first track, “Dark Horse,” opens with a Beirut-esque trill of horns that before it plunges into a percussion-driven melody with the same momentum as Phosphorescent’s “At Death, A Proclamation.” The album’s single, “For 12”, is like being in a dark forest, with sweeping instrumentals and a chorus that is quaint and haunting—very Fleet Foxes. There are too many good songs on the album to pick a favorite, but “As I Lay My Head Down” would have to be one of the contenders, with a pacing refrain that leads you up swells of strings met with vocal harmonies and around bends that end abruptly with a clap and a jingle that recalls the sometimes lively, sometimes tranquil spirit of Anathallo. In the end, all of these familiar bits and pieces melt into an intricate whole, and become a truly unique listening experience.
Tamer Animals is technically the Oklahoma-based band’s second album—their first was a self-titled album in 2009—although they released one album in 2006 under the name Kunek. I’m still reeling at how incredibly detailed this album is, from the range of instruments you will hear in a given song, to the twists and turns of tempo. The music seems to carve its own landscape around you as you’re listening; each song unfolds—sometimes quietly and other times, fiercely—until you’re submerged in a delicately pulsing harmony, a jungle of sound. And it can’t hurt that lead singer Jesse Tabish has a voice that sounds like a spoonful of honey melting into a cup of tea.
Sadly, Other Lives has recently wrapped up the west coast portion of their tour and are currently heading east, before forging onward to make sweet, sweet music overseas. Those of you who want to catch some live footage, check out the band’s appearance on NPR’s tiny desk series: http://www.npr.org/2011/08/18/139645912/other-lives-tiny-desk-concert.
Review by Julia MacNelly.