Band: Plants and Animals
From: Montreal, Quebec
Sound: Lush, 70s AM rock gets sprawling, epic treatment with incredible results
Similar Artists: Buffalo Springfield, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Loose Fur
Listen Now: "Feedback In The Field"
The picture says it all. As if the cover of Sgt. Pepper's came to life and had a hallucinogenic picnic in the backwoods of Middle Earth, the happening depicted above is about the most fitting visual representation of Plants and Animals that I could imagine.
That this is also the cover art for the Montreal-based trio's debut full-length Parc Avenue (Secret City Records) then makes perfect sense, a fitting harbinger of the eclectic menagerie of electric folk, psychedelic boogies, sing-song flower child freakouts and all around damn good songwriting contained within.
The album cover is also as good a place as any to delve into discussing a band that has as much to offer as Plants and Animals. Without getting too preachy about the necessity of listening to certain albums start to finish - or too curmudgeonly by wishing for the bygone era of sitting down with a tangible piece of art in your hands (ie vinyl) - let's just say that Parc Avenue makes a strong argument for the simple joys found in fully losing oneself within the nooks, crannies, and broader landscapes of an entire album. Of all the records I've heard so far this year, this is the one that I'd most like to strap on a pair of vintage cans for, plop down on my beanbag chair, fire up the lava lamp, and listen to while obsessing over the liner notes (you know, assuming my bedroom looked like Greg Brady's).
Plants and Animals seem to not have forgotten the lost art of album listening as an event, and for that reason alone Parc Avenue is an utter standout. Of course, such grand visions haven't always defined the band either...
Formed while Warren Spicer (guitar, lead vocals - eventually) and Matthew "The Woodman" Woodley (drums, vocals) were still in high school in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the complete lineup didn't come together until the two met Nicolas Basque (guitar, bass, vocals) while studying in the music department at Concordia University. The trio put their first batch of songs to tape shortly thereafter, a collection of instrumental jams that would form the precursor to their current pan-optic sound. From these more modest attempts at songwriting, they eventually evolved into a phase their bio refers to as "taming the sprawling wilderness of their sound and sculpting real songs," which naturally meant the introduction of vocals. Thus, Spicer stepped to the mic and "lead the way to a (hitherto unheard of) vocal domination of their material—as if he had been possessed by the ghost of some recently departed soul singer."
Truly, and it's this emotive and dynamic howl that binds much of the disparate sounds and genres on Parc Avenue into a cohesive whole. As such, it's incredible to think that this powerfully effective instrument was the last element introduced and incorporated within their songwriting process. Alongside the crackling rhythm section of Basque and Woodley, Spicer's lived-in voice adds even more warmth and organic familiarity to the material. One moment, he adds snarling Mark Knopfler-esque affectations to the verse of "Feedback in the Fields" while the next leading the sugary sweet chamber chorus of "Bye Bye Bye".
Of course, with track titles such as "Faerie Dance", "Feedback in the Fields" and "Guru" and several songs clocking in at over seven minutes to accompany adventurous instrumental breaks, jam-band conspiracists may cry foul at the band's presumed lack of focus (as though they've gone a bit "too organic" perhaps?); such charges would be short-sighted though. There's an enormous difference between writing a long song for the sake of writing a long song and doing so because the composition requires appropriate time and space to grow, shift, evolve and resolve.
Every song on Parc Avenue unfolds patiently and naturally, and as a result the entire album feels fully realized instead of half-baked, in service of the song as opposed to in spite of it, and always pushing forward instead of treading water. Besides, if you were having this much fun recording the seven-minute album closer "Guru" (see video below), you wouldn't want to stop the jams either:
Luckily, we'll have ample opportunity to experience such revelry firsthand as the band is in the midst of an East Coast tour that includes a pair of New York-based shows this weekend. Plants and Animals and hippie dances oh my!
"Feedback In The Field"
See Plants and Animals Live:
14 May - Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live Upstairs (with Rock Plaza Central)
15 May - Baltimore, MD @ 8 x 10 (w/ Rock Plaza Central)
16 May - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
17 May - Brooklyn, NY @ Union Hall (w/ Rock Plaza Central)
18 May - Boston, MA @ TT the Bear’s (w/ Rock Plaza Central)
01 Jun - Haarlem, Netherlands @ Patronaat
02 Jun - Utrecht, Netherlands @ Ekko (with Sunset Rubdown)
03 Jun - Njmegen, Netherlands @ Dornrosje (with the Do)
04 Jun - Tilburg, Netherlands @ O13
05 Jun - Dublin, Ireland @ Crawdaddy
06 Jun - Glasgow, Scotland @ The Captain’s Rest
07 Jun - Edinburgh, Scotland @ Wee Red Bar
09 Jun - London, UK @ Big Chill House
13 Jun - Lausanne, Switzerland @ Le Romandie
14 Jun - Paris, France @ Mains D’Ouevre
23 Jun - Seattle, WA @ Nectar
24 Jun - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
25 Jun - San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
27 Jun - Pomona, CA @ Glass House
28 Jun - Los Angeles, CA @ Spaceland (with Panther)
10 Jul - Ottawa, Ontario @ Ottawa Blues Festival
16 Jul - Sherbrooke, Quebec @ La Telephone Rouge
18 Jul - Yellowknife, Northwest Territories @ Folk on the Rocks Festival
19 Jul - Yellowknife, Northwest Territories @ Folk on the Rocks Festival
25 Jul - Guelph, Ontario @ Hillside Music Festival
26 Jul - Guelph, Ontario @ Hillside Music Festival
03 Aug - Montreal, Quebec @ Osheaga Festival (Parc Jean Drapeau)
09 Aug - Marysville, Ontario @ Wolfe Island Musicfest
17 Aug - Salmon Arm, British Columbia @ Salmon Arm Festival
Visit Plants and Animals on MySpace.
In the recent past, the following bands have been featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week:
All the Saints
I'm From Barcelona
Tapes 'n Tapes
See the entire list of bands featured as EAR FARM's Band of the Week HERE.
14 May 2008
Band: Plants and Animals