Plants and Animals Parc Avenue Album Review

Originally written in 2008

Let’s get it out there right at the start. Parc Avenue is a great record.  But before I continue, I should back up and give you an idea of the direction I’m coming from with this review. I have been into Plants and Animals for a while now. I have seen their progression from their first album to where they are today. They’re a jam band; infusing jazz, folk and pop into instrumentally varied rock songs. Plants and Animals retain that sound today while at the same time releasing their most focused and complete record to date.

My first experience with Plants and Animals was with their first self titled LP. It was a completely instrumental album and consisted of only 6 tracks; but reached within a minute of hitting the 1 hour mark. The album captured my interest but only hinted at what would come. When Plants and Animals released With/Avec in 2007, their song structure had tightened and vocals were added. Anticipation grew for the eventual release of their new album, Parc Avenue.

Parc Avenue is the culmination of years of hard work from band mates Warren C. Spicer, Matthew Woodley and Nic Basque. While I really enjoyed their first record, looking back on it now, it feels more like a teaser. If you have never listened to Plants and Animals, I would start with Parc Avenue. I also loved their EP, but after having two of the four tracks regurgitated on the new album, With/Avec lost a bit of its lustre. On the first few listens, it also took away from Parc Avenue as well. Each time I came to a track from the EP, I was pulled away from the experience and reminded of the previous album. Fortunately, that feeling didn’t last long. If Parc Avenue is your first experience with Plants and Animals, it should be smooth sailing from beginning to end.

While it was obviously meticulously produced, the album has a feeling of spontaneity. The sound is so warm and full, it’s hard to believe that Plants and Animals are only a three piece band. An ambitious band, they strive for complexity while also maintaining immense accessibility. Some of the songs can still get a little long, but the band hides it well. The songs really flow from one to the next, while often more dramatic changes occur mid track.  Their sound is very atmospheric, reminding me of Grizzly Bear among others. Then they change gears and its 1970 all over again.

The final track is completely instrumental and has a wonderful tribal sound. As a true jam song it builds powerfully from the first guitar note. On the rest of Parc Avenue the lyrics are well written, but they definitely take a back seat to the composition and instrumentation. This isn’t an album I enjoy overall; this is an album I enjoy all over.  It’s consistently strong from beginning to end and the experience begs for repeated listens. Plants and Animals have crafted a brilliant album with more style, sound and warmth than most bands have in their entire catalogue.

Score: 8.5

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Dave Loft

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