“Tamer Animals” – by Other Lives
This is the best “new-to-me” artist that I have heard in a long, long, time. Per Google Play, “Tamer Animals is the second album of the American indie rock band Other Lives”; apparently they are from Oklahoma, although I never would have guessed that. They have a vocalist and sound that reminds me so much of the UK band Travis, just with more orchestral instrumentation (vs. rock guitar). In addition to “Tamer Animals”, there is also a 2009 self-titled release, and a 2011 vinyl import (I didn’t see this available in another format). At times the style reminds me of something like Arcade Fire and/or Muse – two artists that also impressed the heck out of me when I heard them each for the first time many years ago. Every single track on “Tamer Animals” is both intelligent and intentional, from a musical perspective.
My favorite tracks are #1 (“Dark Horse”), #4 (“Tamer Animals”) and #10 (“Landforms”), although there are actually none on this CD that I would reject or skip over. “Dark Horse” sets the expectation for the whole album, revealing to the listener that the rest of this album should be well-written, with lyrics that are authentic, and with a musicianship evident in the complex scores supporting each piece. The song itself evokes a more refined version of Brian Wilson-esque “God Only Knows” vocals, delicately arching over percussive brass and regimental drums.
The fourth track gets most of its effectiveness and emotion from simple open-chord piano accompaniment and very-well selected percussion. The repetitive chorus gives the song a familiar feeling right away – that makes it accessible without being saccharine from the start. This isn’t a direct song comparison, but the amount of vocal effort exuded here is reminiscent of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division – the singer delivers the melody in a relaxed manner that is smooth and so perfect for the song. #10 is richly supported by a full orchestral accompaniment – the violins are all over the place, flying gracefully over earthy woodwinds and lots of ethereal vocal harmonies.
This album was recommended to me by an audiophile work colleague who takes music appreciation and sound very seriously. Of course this slightly biased my first impressions to assume the music was sophisticated; but obviously I had to make my own decision about whether or not I liked this, and why. He loaned me a vinyl copy which sounded excellent at home, but as you know I do most of my listening on the road – so I picked up a portable version for the commute with no major side effects that I noticed. If anything, I think that the current bleak, dark, East Coast winter mornings and the pale landscape of 3+ feet of residual snow enhances the feelings evoked by music like this – lonely songs feel more sad; eerie songs feel more alien; relationship songs feel more…crucial. So the CD version works just fine, too.
I recommend with much enthusiasm that you check out this album – and for something to look forward to, their May 2015 release of “Rituals” is available for pre-order on vinyl. I’m really excited about this, since “Tamer Animals” was so truly excellent (a solid “A”). Please please please, don’t miss this.
Link to Google Play to Preview Tracks:
Link to Amazon to Purchase Album: