Last year, I struggled to contain my love of Midlake‘s ‘The Courage Of Others’, which is a truly wonderful, pastoral folk record. ‘Tamer Animals‘ is this year’s nearest fit, although the dramatic musical backdrops are rather more lively than the subdued wallow of Denton’s finest. Swooning indie vocals and folksy instrumentation are at the core of what Other Lives do – their self-titled 2009 debut, also a none-too-shabby affair, laid the groundwork for this fine piece of work.
Having toured with Bon Iver, this charming band from Oklahoma will be off on the road in early 2012 supporting Radiohead, whose audience are in for a treat. The five piece each play a minimum of three instruments so as to capture the sonic scope of their wonderful recorded output. Frontman Jesse Tabish has spoken of his love of classic soundtracks and that certainly explains some of the more ambitious and plain unusual flourishes which decorate a number of tracks.
The chiming piano call and tambourine tattoo which open side two are a call to action, with skittering drum patterns quietly creeping up on the inside as ‘Weather‘ really takes flight. The genuinely epic harmonies on ‘Old Statues‘ seem to come out of nowhere, one of those magical gear shifts in a song which you look forward to each time you play an album. ‘Woodwind‘ – the Ronseal track on the album – is Midlake after doing that thing where you stick your arms out and spin around until you nearly fall over, while ‘Desert‘ and ‘Landforms‘ demonstrate that not all albums peter out towards their conclusion, both as propulsive and theatrical as the opening moments.
Reviews have referenced Love, Fleet Foxes and the Floyd to name but three and, with each of those having some truth as comparisons, whichever way you look at it, that’s pretty impressive company to be in. ‘Tamer Animals’ certainly doesn’t feel derivative and you get the impression that they’re a band who’ll just keep doing what they do regardless, and if support slots for bestselling bands come along then that’s just a pleasant bonus.