Just plain sexy La La Land, the second full-length from Canadian trio Plants and Animals, is richer and heavier than the band’s debut, Parc Avenue, but still chock full of the first’s breakthrough eclecticism. Gorgeous melodies make love to fuzzed out ‘70s rock ’n’ roll as singer Warren C. Spicer seductively moans, “Let’s go up on the roof and see things that look alive,” on “Celebration.” It’s a tempting offer.
With La La Land, Montreal’s Plants and Animals smooth out the royal sensations of 2008’s sprawling Parc Avenue, dialing down the bombast and style workouts in favor of something more closely resembling their bare-knuckle live shows. The trio is more comfortable here with intimate moments and the songs are more organic. Although not without its missteps (“Future from the ’80s” brought to you by vocoder choruses), La La Land finds the plateaus to be nearly as interesting as the peaks.
Considering the accolades for Plants and Animals' last record, 2008's Parc Avenue, you'd figure the Montreal trio might've carried a lot of weight on their shoulders about the follow-up. But La La Land is as laid-back and assured as anything they've released to date. [rssbreak] The album basks in sun-drenched classic rockisms while managing to sound leagues above throwback jam bands like Phish.
What's going on up there in Montreal, anyway? It might as well be Williamsburg, Jr., considering how many world-beating indie rock bands emerge from the town every time you turn around. In 2008, Plants and Animals were added to the list, on the strength of their debut album, Parc Avenue, which had rock scribes salivating and earned a nomination for the Polaris Prize (the Canadian version of the Mercury Prize). Two years later, follow-up album La La Land takes its name from what the band has described as a "vortex of confusion," but the dizzying effect that the album's disparate stylistic strains might incur is an altogether charming one.
La La Land, the second album from Montreal-based trio Plants and Animals, should be excellent. Their woefully overlooked 2008 debut full-length, Parc Avenue, was ripe to be expanded upon. Full of spacious, mostly acoustic almost-folk sounds, it spackled rich, otherworldly harmonies and honeyed, finger-picked guitar lines over rambling epics. On Parc Avenue, P&A drew a direct line between the bearded Laurel Canyon folk-rockers of the 1970s and the modern psychedelia of bands like Animal Collective.
Out in the world, plants and animals are things we tend to impinge upon. They’re all out there in the world, moving around in their familiar circles, and we build cities out to meet them, or pave walkways through their forests, or domesticate them into pets or stick them in pots on our front porch. The point is: we move into their territory. But the band Plants and Animals? Well, that’s a whole other story.
The band called Plants and Animals is a rarity in contemporary indie rock in that it combines a pastoral sound with more than a little cosmopolitanism. Parc Avenue, a brilliant debut that got overlooked in part because of how difficult it was to pinpoint, was arguably the finest debut album by a Montreal band since the Arcade Fire's. The mix of old-world and modern-world sounds is a distinct quality of Montreal, and Plants and Animals, made up of both Anglos and Quebecois, showcased that quality effervescently on its debut.
Parc Avenue, debut album by Montreal trio Plants and Animals, was one of the most remarkable debuts of the last decade, propelled by a young band that had its roots planted on classic rock, yet were contemporary enough to play around with their earthly sensations. They took their time in letting their mostly slow jams develop with ease, executing some of the finest folk-laden acoustic melodies in recent memory, echoing British folk and baroque instrumentation with exactitude. How such a promising start lead to one of the most disastrous train wrecks in recent memory by a perfectly capable band is beyond my comprehension.
La La Land is so warm and easy to like, it triumphs over any misgivings. Matthew Horton 2010 Recorded in Paris and their hometown of Montreal, Plants and Animals’ second album marks a minor change of emphasis from their 2007 With/Avec EP and 2008 full-length debut Parc Avenue (unreleased over here), squeezing out the kookier edges of their natural psychedelic rock and laying down some full-fat riffs. From the laidback Lynyrd Skynryd boogie of opener Tom Cruz on, there’s a sense they’re a little more ordinary now; but La La Land is so warm and easy to like, it triumphs over any misgivings.