As one might expect from any band’s third album, Montreal indie outfit Plants and Animals’ latest offering, The End of That, is of a more mature sound than its predecessors.
Mature, but not necessarily all-grown-up: the songs are dominated by two conflicting themes to which any student can surely relate. First, there is a restlessness about these songs, a yearning to be on the road (take a year off to travel, anyone?). Second, there is a certain apprehension about the future, a realization that what we once thought was the distant future is not so distant anymore (marriage? kids? a real job?). Their website likens 2008’s Parc Avenue to childhood, and 2010’s La La Land to adolescence. The End of That, then, represents the twenties.
Part of the appeal of Plants and Animals’ early albums was the freewheeling yet restrained rock and roll sound they exhibited, particularly in La La Land, with the layered guitar riffs occasionally invoking some good old-fashioned Rolling Stones vibes. The End of That began with a completely different approach, starting off with “Before,” a soothing acoustic ballad, before moving into the titular track. “The End of That” is a likewise acoustically-dominated piece, but laced with fuzz-toned guitar licks, it is catchy, upbeat, and refreshing. It’s like Tom Petty singing a Bob Dylan song.
The third tune, “Song for Love,” is upbeat as well, beginning with an aesthetic similar to that of the one before it. Though at this point it is understandable if one starts to worry whether or not they can still live up to the rock and roll precedent they constructed with their earlier albums. While these are great songs, it would be an altogether bad thing if their raw edge were to fall by the wayside as they grow as a band. But fear not: halfway through the chorus, the cavalry arrives in the form of wailing guitar chords and shouting vocals.
From here on out, the album captures the familiar Plants and Animals sound of earlier works, but with a fresh take. Lead singer Warren Spicer’s voice is throatier, harsher and, most importantly, more emotive than on either of the previous albums. The vocals are no longer just providing a melody; they provide a depth of meaning beyond the lyrics themselves.
“No Idea” slows things down once more—the way the Eagles might do—in resignation to the fact that the future will always be uncertain. This tension breeds restlessness, and that manifests itself in “Runaways:” one last chance to delay commitment and responsibility, one last youthful road trip.
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