CD Review: Plants and Animals — La La Land; Playing The EARL, June 5 and Rock and Roll Hotel, June 7

Plants and Animals
La La Land
Secret City Records

By Chris Homer

La La Land, the second album from Montreal trio Plants and Animals, marks a major shift in the band’s sound. While Plants and Animals’ 2008 debut, Parc Avenue, was anchored by quiet folk melodies interspersed with huge choir choruses, blasts of brass horns and sections of jam-band riffs, La La Land is more focused on plugged-in guitar pop.

Despite lacking the genre-bending qualities of older songs like “Bye, Bye, Bye” and “Faerie Dance” that proved to be the band’s real talent, the new sound of La La Land doesn’t miss the mark.

Plants and Animals prove they can be just as successful at straight-ahead rock from the get go on La La Land. The spiky guitar riffs and driving bass rhythm of album opener “Tom Cruz” quickly remove any doubt. The distorted synth sound the band adds to the song’s verses keep it just as interesting as any of the tracks on their debut.

Following the opener, “Swinging Bells” features lots of drawn-out, airy guitar distortion that serves as a nice contrast to the peppy sound of “Tom Cruz.” Later, “Kon Tiki” is another successful laid-back number with the help of Spanish-influenced guitar playing.

Plants and Animals’ guitar pop style is the most successful on “American Idol” and “The Mama Papa” thanks to infectious choruses that are bound to stick in your head and the rapid-fire delivery of melodies.

Of course, Plants and Animals’ original sound isn’t totally absent from La La Land. The songs that are the most successful recall moments of Parc Avenue. “Future From The 80’s” features a tender brass melody that builds from a slow guitar ballad, a technique the band was fond of on its debut.

Likewise, “Undone Melody” and “Game Shows” recall many of the folk ballads on Parc Avenue. “Undone Melody” particularly stands out as it combines soft acoustic guitar melodies with thundering rock riffs. The song should serve as a good example to Plants and Animals of how to combine the two different styles they’ve displayed so far on future releases.

While La La Land lacks the soundscapes of Plants and Animals’ debut, it is still a solid release from a band that continues to innovate its sound.

Plants and Animals play The EARL on June 5…

…and Rock and Roll Hotel on June 7

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