Montreal’s Plants and Animals attracted ears in 2008 with its breakout full-length, Parc Avenue, a soaring collection of reactive songs that popped and spilled over into crashing waves of orchestral arrangements. Now, two albums later, the trio has reached an even-keeled state, shed the drama, and pared themselves down to gentle acoustics and naked, electric instrumentation. Lyrically, they’re maturing, looking around clear-eyed and grappling with the insecurities of adulthood brought on by friends’ marriages and babies, the hopelessness of a stagnating relationship, and the existential weariness of trying to drag yourself out of a personal hole.
The flip side of adulthood is here, too: the strength, the relaxed self-knowledge, the humor. “The stroller situation on the sidewalk is out of control,” snips singer Warrens C. Spicer on “Crisis!”, but he’s all alone and “somewhere between a crisis and a pretty good time.” Starting over and figuring out the next step is a common theme through these songs, most blatantly on “2010″, which slings crust at a shoddy time past: “2010 is over/Goodbye to the tears of last year,” wails Spicer over the opening chords.
The lyrics lean to the vulnerable and self-aware, pretension stripped away: “You turn me on so/With your bee-sting lips and your pepper-grinder hips/Like a thread and a needle, we’re just typical people.” Spicer picks his words well, perhaps best on “No Idea”, which slips in and out in two minutes and 35 seconds. Some of the songs on the album overstay their welcome by sprawling out longer than necessary, but “No Idea” succinctly gets across the emotion of two people paralyzed by indecision.
There’s a theory that some people who enter 12-step programs become so focused on staying sober that sobriety pushes out any other ambition in their lives. In a way, The End of That falls for this trap. It’s wise and at times gorgeous but ultimately still processing the past and not ready to take risks.
Essential Tracks: “Song for Love”, “2010″, and “No Idea”