Other Lives - Tamer Animals
Record Label: TBD Records
Release Date: May 10th, 2011
I’m not even going to pretend to suppress or deny it, Tamer Animals, the sophomore full-length from Oklahoma based quintet Other Lives is a beautiful and equally powerful listen. It was patiently written, recorded and produced over a period of sixteen months and is sure to establish the band as one of the most creative and hardworking entities currently within the music industry. For those who were fortunate enough to have embraced the band’s debut release in 2009, you’ll be delighted to know that the group spent those sixteen months carefully sculpting every individual sound you’ll hear throughout the record’s absorbing forty minute duration. Every sound has its own purpose without being too indulgent, every flourish of a sweeping string is strategically placed in order to absorb and captivate the listener within the confides of the record itself, and every intricate detail and arrangement evokes something from its listener.
Two and a half minute album opener “Dark Horse” captures an immediate sense of subdued grandeur as momentum rises with pulsating horns, rhythmic drumbeats and cascading strings. The instrumentation is guided by the dulcet tones of lead vocalist Jesse Tabish’s vocal delivery as he sings solemnly, “We’re bringing down the dark horse…”. The vocals are an overlooked feature of the album for they never quite dominate and take over. Instead, they assist in building vast emotional soundscapes and atmospheres. “For 12” entices as it intertwines warm melodies and vocal harmonies with conflicting dark textures to wonderful effect. Although it may seem slightly moody, it’s a rather sweeping and cinematic listen due once again to the rousing use of strings. If it hasn’t already won you over by the time the vocals begin to soar with haunting tranquility, then by the end of this expressive & harmonious offering it surely will have.
The title track proves to be an album highlight as upbeat piano notes accompany multiple xylophones to create a memorable opening verse before Tabish’s vocals sing softly in the background, “Solitary motion in the wake of an avalanche / Deer in the headlights, there goes a weaker one / I was listening to facades, I don’t care enough to see the way / Do you hear the silence? / I was far too late”. On the surface the lyrics may seem cryptic and complex but in actual fact, like the majority of the record, it touches on the theme of observing relationships between individuals and nature. The five minute duration of “Dust Bowl III” passes in a breeze due to the minor key melodies that are featured. It feels distinctly like a vulnerable country influenced folk tune that meanders, bursts and then blooms into a breathtaking climax towards the end.
The latter half of the record is arguably even stronger than the first with “Weather” providing a short break from the regular instrumentation of dazzling strings, piano and guitar. Rather, the song incorporates a catchy hook of jittery violins which is both pleasant and welcoming. The album ends just as quickly as it started with two and a half minute instrumental closer “Heading East” which features ambient and theatrical undertones. It must be noted that there isn’t a moment of spontaneity on offer throughout the duration of Tamer Animals - everything is there to be revealed if you’re one to look hard enough and that’s one of the bigger reasons as to why the record is so compelling and captivating.
Tamer Animals is an album that should ideally be heard with optimal attentiveness because not listening closely may potentially cause you to overlook everything that makes this record stand out. The arrangements, the song structures, and the gorgeous instrumentation are never forced upon the listener which makes it perhaps too easy to merely listen casually and only hear some stately, beautiful, mid-tempo indie tunes. However, these songs are so much more than that. Those who enjoy seeking out the layers of composition and the finest of details will no doubt appreciate and gravitate towards a record as expertly crafted as this.