Its clear that These Animals are partial to the smoother side of indie rock. Dense and sustained minor chords, soft harmonies, breathy vocal delivery its all here and in abundance on the Brooklyn quartets crowd-funded debut album, Pages. That doesnt necessarily mean that theyre trying to aim lower: At various points on Pages, there are clear fingerprints of Broken Social Scene and Nada Surf, two bands that have proven this style isnt inherently bland since the 90s. Pages, however, is as agreeable though equally characterless as indie rock debuts come in 2013.
Lead vocalist Greg Baldwin sings with a pronounced, slightly-nasal voice that fittingly offsets their blurry guitars. His lyricism, on the other hand, owes more to the premiere emo groups of the mid-aughts than any leading songwriters of their guitar texture-obsessive indie antecedents. Its possible Baldwin is simply best at writing in this vein, and thats fine, but he could start by digging a little deeper than retired self-loathing quips like I wrote the book on how to lose, as heard on lead single I Wrote the Book.
It’s a lack of identity that rips up Pages. Across the whole album, theres almost zero movement with regards to dynamics or intensity. Rarely does it take a risk of going anywhere besides right over the middle. And yet the few times it does the up-tempo, rough-edged aggression on Silence Sets the Tone, the visceral soundscape of “Hunting Horn”, and the crescendo on the back half of Murder of Crows, namely are good enough to prove that they should have kept on thumbing through.
Essential Tracks: “Hunting Horn”