Music Reviews
La La Land

Plants and Animals La La Land

(Secret City Records) Rating - 4/10

Parc Avenue, debut album by Montreal trio Plants and Animals, was one of the most remarkable debuts of the last decade, propelled by a young band that had its roots planted on classic rock, yet were contemporary enough to play around with their earthly sensations. They took their time in letting their mostly slow jams develop with ease, executing some of the finest folk-laden acoustic melodies in recent memory, echoing British folk and baroque instrumentation with exactitude. How such a promising start lead to one of the most disastrous train wrecks in recent memory by a perfectly capable band is beyond my comprehension.

There’s an inherent theme in La La Land, one that can be looked upon as satirical or comical – or blatantly dim-witted. Plants and Animals’ take on Los Angeles' star struck, ghastly artificialness is meant to be compelling and direct, with a clear understanding about their Western neighbors’ standoffish view of the world. However, P&A's thesis on US popular culture is comparative to that of a young teenager’s perception of the world, one that comes to mind after countless hours of television consumption and basic observational investigations. 

Even if Plants and Animals naively mock ridicule of an American viewpoint, it seems as if they're mainly mocking themselves with half-baked compositions and elongated one-note daytrips. They’ve become the joke within a joke, choosing to purposely attempt an artistic stance that emulates what they’re mostly making fun of. After allegedly rediscovering electric guitars, album opener Tom Cruz penetrates with shoddy results – a fuzzed out rocker accompanied by a bell chime and repetitive verses that tries to be sonically interesting. American Idol showcases a disparate jazz solo while they show off their hard-toned licks, failing to bring justice to the glam rock dramatics they’re after. Thankfully, Undone Melody sounds like it took more than fifteen minutes to come up with – the six-minute rocker builds to a commendable conclusion, a better example of inverting Parc Avenue’s acoustic bouts with electric pyrotechnics.

When Plants and Animals declared La La Land as being a state of mind, they meant it in the most literal sense. Kon Tiki falls into this category churning chilled-out guitar strums as the sun goes down over the horizon for a monotonous three and a half minutes. Beach-vibing doesn't suit them well, as they’ve almost made Jack Johnson look good with its insipid carelessness. In Celebration, they approach Grizzly Bear’s recent use of reverb tonality for inspiration but with lesser results, lazily bearing a resonating chorus finale to salvage the damage that has already been done.  Shifting from scrupulous to economical has only shown their worst assets, unraveling its conventions with sheer force.

The main problem with La La Land lies in its lack of seasoned, well thought out riffs, a noteworthy trait that made Parc Avenue such an unpredictable listen. This is especially heartbreaking when Plants and Animals close the album with Jeans Jeans Jeans, another fine example of what could’ve been La La Land’s original intent of delivering twitchy, tight progressions. Instead, P&A chose to implement unmemorable improvisations (even when the songs themselves aren’t that lengthy), cyclical basic chords, and a complete absence to even pinpoint any of their debut’s light psychedelic tendencies. In what was already an inane, washed-up concept to begin with, P&A fail to enlighten by opting to deliver trite lyrics and characterless humor for their own amusement. Evidently, consciousness suits them better.