The Red Alert
The Red Alert

Plants and Animals

La La Land

(Secret City)

Record Review by Angel M. Baker


Not having the benefit of reviewing the Plants and Animals’ debut record, Parc Avenue, this writer has no attachment to the same. I've come into this review with an open mind and no predilections about what La La Land will or should sound like. For that reason, according to critics out there bent on keeping up the "sophomore slump" myth, this record stands on its own as a solid listen. Since listening to La La Land, we have compared it to Parc Avenue and, incidentally, find little weight in the theory. La La Land is evidence of a band growing, shifting, and exploring to its benefit.


Sure, there is a qualified argument that bands shouldn’t throw their fans for a loop with a too-changey sound (unless they’re Mike Patton who can do anything), but Plants and Animals have not done that here. La La Land is grand and pastoral and plays up a similar framework as Parc Avenue, though the recent release pulls a little more from the Phoenix school of rock than the Of Montreal or The Arcade Fire disciplines. Plants and Animals quite rightly distinguish themselves from other Montreal indie bands against whom comparisons are, and will continue to be, excessively made.


Since we’re talking comparisons, the vibe of La La Land is most like “Mercy” on Parc Avenue. On La La Land, the band from the great white north comment on the glitz and fabrication of our fair city amidst 11 pretty danceable songs. Antithetical to the folk rock paradigm that an analytical record can be fun, La La Land is just that: fun.


The record is frontloaded with the gem, “Tom Cruz,” a heady rock and roll shuffle that tells us straight away this isn’t going to be an “Early in the Morning” kind of album. Warren Spicer repeats, “Dying to be friends” with a haunting echo that screams of the desperation of Hollywood up-and-comers.


“Swinging Bells,” “Future from the 80s,” and “Celebration” follow as the record’s best tracks. The former typifies the band’s post-classic rock influence while the second directly recalls Led Zeppelin IV. “Celebration” is reminiscent of Let It Bleed era Rolling Stones, with a labyrinthine close similar to “Gimme Shelter.”


“American Idol” may be a bit too theoretically heavy-handed to handle but is an instance of a song just coming out and saying what it is trying to say: we’re all a bunch of shallow aspiring fare-thee-wells with an addiction to reality TV (we’re paraphrasing here). Thankfully, the whole record shies away from these types of blatant observations. 


La La Land represents a marked departure from Canada’s recent export, but still very much bears the rustic classic rock influence we know Plants and Animals to adore. Even listening to it against the sparse beauty of Parc Avenue to which other critics cling, La La Land undoubtedly holds up.


More by this writer:

Venice is Sinking - Sand & Lines

The Morning Benders - Big Echo

Turin Brakes - Outbursts

The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever