Having originally started as a funk-based instrumental group, Animal Sounds is debuting a record that will soon define them as one of the indie powerhouse bands that call Western New York their home. The five-piece group released an all instrumental EP back in 2015 titled Fling Mingus which had well written guitar duos and harmonically vibrant compositions that didn’t get too complex, making for an easy and interesting listen. A couple years later, the band released a single titled “Ghost” which had lyrics- marking a change in the group’s direction. Composed of Erik Gordon (vocals), Shawn Brogan (guitar), Alex Brophy (guitar), Angel Figueroa (bass/keys), and Theo Schirmuhly (drums), Animal Sounds presents a versatile and eclectic sound that doesn’t veer far from their roots while also solidifying the band’s progression into a vocally driven sound with intriguing instrumentals. While this new release, Ennui, can take a very strong cue from the group’s main influences, there’s enough in this 8-track album to warrant a close look at how well the band is able to execute these sounds and create a product that oozes the stylings of some big-name alt rock/indie groups.
A major highlight of the album are the guitar performances. The clean lead duos are reminiscent of Minus the Bear, with both guitars playing melodic parts that mesh as one voice. This is apparent right from the get-go, with the second track “Hesitation” starting off with a conversation between the two guitars, one just slightly grittier than the other so as to differentiate the voices enough. Schirmuhly’s drums do a great job to accent both the bass and guitar lines. On the seventh song, “Wanderlust”, the hi-hat accentuates beats in a way that makes different parts of the guitar line pop out, while the bass drum syncs with the bass to achieve a really big lower end without the frequencies getting muddied in the mix. The bass overall keeps a steady groove in each song, never becoming too flashy but also not becoming redundant or droney. It leaves room for the guitars to shine and will even jump in on a well composed trio part like in “Antelope”.
The vocals are very strong from top to bottom. Gordon weaves his way through already melodically layered songs, finding open spots to color the music with his own melody. The lyrics seem to ride on one theme- a dissolution with the current state of one’s being and how growing into adulthood amplifies those feelings. It’s a darker lyrical focus, which matches the melancholy mood of the songs well. The harmonies are a big stand-out, with numerous vocal parts being layered to create atmospheric backdrops to mesh with the ethereal guitars. The group displays a lot of chemistry, and strong song structuring.
One thing that comes out a bit much are the sounds from the group’s influences. A few of the tracks instrumentally sound very similar to a Tame Impala song, sometimes Minus the Bear. Despite these parallels, the songs are well written and do a very good job of nailing down the timbres and subtleties those groups use in their music- an achievement regardless. Animal Sounds has a lot of chemistry, and it’d be interesting to hear a bit less of the influences and more of the unique sound the band can bring to the table. The group puts on a very strong live show too, covering tunes that are complete departures from their influences and making them their own. If you enjoy the album, get out to one of Animal Sound’s shows in the WNY area!
Key Tracks: Hesitation, Wanderlust, Kid Dankë Schon