Plants and Animals

La La Land

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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. Being among Montreal's cool kids, Plants and Animals hang out with folks like Arcade Fire, and tracks like "Game Shows" definitely offer the stately, string-laden beauty of a Neon Bible outtake, but that's just one side of La La Land's sonic polygon. For a trio that remains consistently unpretentious and accessible, Plants and Animals seem to have sucked up a fair amount of art rock influences somewhere along the way; "Fake It" gets downright proggy, with an instrumental section that could have come straight off a vintage Yes album, while the tremolo-soaked guitars and no-sudden-moves tempo of "Celebration" wouldn't sound out of place segued into Pink Floyd's "Echoes." On other side of the coin, the synths and vocoders of "Future from the ‘80s," the band's homage to the futurist fetish of the titular era, might sound self-conscious in other hands, but there's a genuine feeling of warmth amid those robotic vocals. If there's a connecting thread running through the album, it's the chunky, insistent guitar riffs that pop up repeatedly, from "American Idol" to "Jeans Jeans Jeans," suggesting a childhood spent with ears glued to classic-rock radio, absorbing the likes of BTO, Neil Young, and the James Gang. Last time around, the bandmembers referred to that aspect of their sound as "post-classic rock," though in interviews for La La Land, they declared it "barbecue rock" instead. Whatever you call it, that predilection for juicy hooks is a major part of what keeps this mercurial bunch solidly grounded.

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