Music

Other Lives: Tamer Animals

Oklahoma quintet is undeniably accomplished but fails to ignite.


Other Lives

Tamer Animals

Label: TBD
US Release Date: 2011-05-10
UK Release Date: 2011-08-29
Amazon
iTunes

Oklahoma's Other Lives released their self-titled debut album in 2009, following the breakup of frontman Jesse Tabish's previous band, Kunek. Other Lives's latest offering, Tamer Animals, sees the quintet reaching for a fuller, epic sound full of sweeping cello and violin lines rounding out the guitars, drums, and keys. It's all rather hushed and downtempo, but with a wide-open-spaces feel to it, Tamer Animals isn't exactly mopey music. It is introspective, though, and well suited to staring out the window on long rainy afternoons.

Opener "Dark Horse" introduces elements that will be used throughout the album, namely a languid tempo, layers of sound including trumpet, strings and percussion, and Tabish's moaning mournful vocals, which are quick to glide into falsetto. Subsequent tracks vary the proportion, with "As I Lay My Head Down" offering a quicker tempo to go with its Thom Yorke-esque vocals, and "For 12" building swirling towers of synth confection atop a bed of brisk acoustic guitar.

Looking for a sax solo or bit of guitar wankery? You're out of luck. These songs all give the feeling of being carefully constucted, layer upon layer. The good news is this results in a feeling or organic wholeness, but the bad news is that nothing in particular stands out — not a song, not a lyric, not an instrumental break. The record possesses an extraordinary evenness.

The record's publicity material makes much of this, positioning Tamer Animals as a "proper long player" that one should listen to from beginning to end. What I remember about those old LPs, though, is that the expectation that they would be listened to did not equal the expectation that all the songs should follow the same pattern. With a few exceptions — I'm looking at you, Pink Floyd — most bands that released LPs took some pains to include variation in song structure or tonal palette, if nothing else.

This record, however, keeps the overall vibe of dreamy spaciness — or it is spacey dreaminess? — throughout. With no obvious standout tracks, the album builds a degree of momentum but fails to ignite with any particular tune. The effect is something like watching waves beat against the shore. There is movement and rhythm and melody, but there is also an overall sameness. Whether this is a problem will depend upon the tastes of the listener. Some of the tunes are undeniably pretty, such as "Dust Bowl III", with its haunting melody and cryptic lyrics, and "Desert," with its unexpected dose of off-kilter percussion.

Somewhere around the midway point, listener fatigue sets in. Maybe it's the tempos, maybe it's Tabish's lethargic vocal delivery or the murky, lo-fi recording, but the songs begin to have much more in common than they do anything to differentiate between them. Tunes like "Woodwind," "Desert" and "Landforms" are tough to call to mind even after several listens. It's not that there is anything abrasive or unpleasant or wrong with these songs, it's just that they all feel cut from the same pattern. Listeners who like the pattern will love the record. The rest of us might well feel tempted to switch to something else after four or five songs.

5
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Music

The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

Music

'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.

Music

​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.

Music

Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.

Music

Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.

Music

Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.