[28 January 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Lost Animal is Jarrod Quarrell’s musical project, and the title of his new album, Ex Tropical, refers to his childhood years spent in Papua New Guinea. Though this is lean, keyboard-based pop, it does contain elements of the tropical past left behind, especially with the marimba and horns on “Buai Raskol” or the more ambient marimbas and distant flute sounds on the title track. The album contains lots of exploratory layers, from the buried tension of “Sundown” to the ringing pianos over lean beats on “Lost the Baby”. The music stretches out while Quarrell’s Lou-Reed-by-way-of-Kurt-Vile bleat stays contained, groaning in its limited, sometimes charming, range. But for all the exploring the layers do here, they’re hooked to songs that pile up rather than move forward. There are too many lean, mid-tempo beats, the space around layers feels too similar from song to song. What starts off, on “(Intro) Beat Goes On”, a curious and interestingly isolated sound, begins to feel more like one that’s insular, alone, in need of other feels from other players. Quarrell has an interesting knack for texture on Ex Tropical, but his melodies are always playing catch up, while the textures themselves sound constantly in search of playmates they never quite find.