Plants and Animals, La La Land
A bewitching mix of soft-rock luster, classic-rock grit and indie-rock dexterity
Anyone listening to Plants and Animals' debut, Parc Avenue, would have been forgiven for thinking it was actually a reissue. A shaggy (yet never hippie-dippy) collection of warm rock-pop-psych, Parc sounds as though it had been recorded by a group of mid '70s commune residents sent into the forest with wah-wah pedals, some decent hash, and the complete works of Larry Norman and T. Rex. In reality, it was the work of three guys living in modern-day Montreal and working with old recording equipment. The result was one of the best records of 2008, and possibly of 1974.
La La Land is slightly less anachronistic than its predecessor (the regrettably titled "American Idol," for example, even includes a full-blown sax solo). But while it retains Parc Avenue's deep-rooted melodies and cozy analog sound, it puts them to far more ominous use. "My enemies are in me," frontman Warren C. Spicer confides on "Tom Cruz," singing over a shadowy bassline bump, and sounding almost frightened by his own voice. That vague sense of menace hangs over much of La La Land: Both "Swinging Bells" and "Game Shows" feature hazily recounted tales of decadence and/or depression, while "Jeans Jeans Jeans" — though ostensibly about a ripped pair of pants — stomps with Crazy Horse force. Yet even in the album's bleakest moments, Plants and Animals always find some sort of pop common ground, and La La Land is rife with chiming bells, ebullient trumpet blasts, and whistled outros. It's a bewitching record — a mix of soft-rock luster, classic-rock grit, and indie-rock dexterity — a sort of AM Gold for the dark-hearted.