Friday, November 12, 2010

Plants and Animals: La La Land

I first stumbled across Plants and Animals (P&A) in the summer of '08 while watching Patrick Watson YouTube videos.  The labelmates form a pretty strong one-two punch for the small Secret City Records.  P&A's 2008 release, Parc Avenue, was absolutely fantastic, so I had high hopes for La La Land.  Like some other bands' 2010 efforts (Joe Pug, Vampire Weekend, Band of Horses, New Pornographers), I was a little disappointed.

Parc Avenue was a feast for the ears, both musically and lyrically; Land leaves a little bit of both to be desired.  I'm certainly not against bands changing their sound (hey there Sufjan), but it's got to be executed to near perfection if you're going to pull it off.  Land leaves behind the sprawling, '70s gypsy jam band behind in favor of something a little more modern (?), titling one of it's songs "Tom Cruz."  They explained that the song was all about having fun (and paranoia?), and Mr. Cruise apparently came to mind.

"Cruz" kicks off the album and Land's first three songs lures you into thinking that it might match Parc Avenue, but it's a ruse.  Most frustrating for me is the apparent lazy lyricism of Land.  I guess when you put "La La" in to your album's title, that's an indication, but Land takes it to an extreme, one song is a description of lounging at a motel ("Kon Tiki"), another song is all about watching game shows on television ("Game Shows"), and yet another song is about blue jeans ("Jeans Jeans Jeans").  Even stand-out track "American Idol" gets repetative with the line "I want to be your American Idol."  Maybe there's a deeper meaning there, maybe it speaks to the show's lack of creativity and its status as a lowbrow form of music, but the lyrics on the rest of the album don't warrant such a logical leap.  That is not to say that all those songs are bad -- "Jeans Jeans Jeans," "American Idol," and "Tom Cruz" happen to be my favorites from the album -- but it takes far longer for those songs to grab a hold of you than most of the songs on their previous album.

Grade: C+
Blurb: La La Land isn't bad, it just can't hold a candle to the soundscape and lyrical content of Parc Avenue.

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