Songs the Animals Taught Us

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With the addition of a full backing band -- and studio space for that matter -- since the 2001 release of the EP Celebs, experimental filmmaker and musician Kent Lambert of Roommate chose to go the indie-electronica route for the full-length Songs the Animals Taught Us. The album is much more in the vein of the Flaming Lips, though, than the Postal Service, using plenty of piano, acoustic guitar, bass, and even viola and bassoon to add intricacy and subtle, ironic poignancy to the music, in addition to the electronic instruments and sounds that are to be expected in that genre. Lambert is fond of the near-cacophony -- if anything so understated and soft and pretty can actually be called that -- of the various noises and rhythms and bleeps that make up the background of his songs, yet it's done effectively, and with enough chordal breaks that the music isn't messy, just disorganized. It's that type of disorganization, however, that only appears to the outside observer, because anyone actually involved in it knows exactly where everything is and can find it instantly, even if it's in that far corner under the bed. And Lambert's voice acts as the flashlight that shines through the dark and dust. It can be high and far away and very Wayne Coyne-ish (in "Status Hounds" or "Molly"), but it can be low and like Dave Gahan's (in "Typhoon"), as well. Lambert is also able to address a wide range of subjects without seeming overly ambitious. Yes, he has his fair share of abstract lines ("I'm staring at movie screens with faces like birthday cakes and bodies like Christmas Eve and smiles just like Halloween"), but Songs the Animals Taught Us is also a politically charged and sentimental album. Maybe it's because Lambert seems to actually care so much about everything, be it apathy, capitalism or politicians, or his relationship with a woman or his family (in "Dinner with Ivan," a cover of the Big Head Todd & the Monsters that does the original more than justice), that he can cover so many topics and come off as completely sincere in all of them. Songs the Animals Taught Us is a well-made, intelligent, affecting, musically satisfying record that shows off the creativity and talent of Kent Lambert and the other members of the band, and is undoubtedly only an early step in Roommate's sure-to-be outstanding career.

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