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Other Lives – Tamer Animals

Other Lives, Tamer Animals (LP)

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

HAVING scored successive singles of the week with their releases so far, it’s fair to say we’ve been looking forward to the sophomore album from Stillwater, Oklahoma-based Other Lives.

Lead single For 12, for instance, effortlessly combined galloping rhythms and Morricone-esque guitar with a feeling of uneasy expansiveness and the timeless aural sublimity of The Great Plains of the Old West.

It’s a beguiling offering that contains both ethereal qualities and folk-rock ones reminiscent of classic Americana.

It’s follow-up, the recently released title track, was maybe even better. Sumptuously produced by the band themselves and Joey Waronker and mixed by Joey Waronker (Beck’s long-time drummer and scion of legendary producer Lenny Waronker), Tamer Animals builds from bittersweet piano chords into an elegiac, reflective offering that combines thought-provoking lyrics with an epically ethereal sweep.

The low-key delivering, meanwhile, merely helps the song to ingratiate it still further – where some bands might slowly increase the tempo, Other Lives are content to keep things simple and all the more effective. The piano work is particularly striking, as are the echoed background vocals.

Both songs are primarily the work of singer/composer and multi-instrumentalist bandleader Jesse Tabish, who aside from writing and singing also plays piano, guitar, harmonium, organ, vibes, and electric harpsichord.

But he’s joined by an equally talented line-up of cellist Jenny Hsu ,drummer Colby Owens, fellow multi-instrumentalist Jonathon Mooney (on guitar, violin, French horn, trumpet, keys and percussion) and Josh Onstott (bass, Mellotron).

With such a depth of musical talent to draw on, it’s hardly surprising that Tamer Animals has a cinematic feel attached to many of its tracks. It might even be disappointing if it didn’t!

But aside from the aforementioned tracks, there are plenty more moments to savour. And if Dark Horse is a strangely muted intro, there’s an utterly sensational Western feel to As I Lay My Head Down, which kicks off with some great percussion elements, a beguiling harmony and a genuinely rich layering. It’s epic and inspiring, yet oddly melancholy.

Dust Bowl III has a dusky, old West feel that’s born from the early acoustic guitar licks and an atmospheric backdrop (you can well imagine desert landscapes and shifting, cloud-filled skies above), while Weather makes cracking use of its piano backing to deliver another thought-provoking song that’s as much informed by the band’s surrounding landscape as it is their emotions.

Worth listening out for, too, are the sweeping romanticism and Morricone-esque values of Old Statues (which is instrumentally beautiful), the lively, layered – even orchestral – and beautiful Woodwind and the striking, even foot-stomping Landforms, a track that both Elbow and Sigur Ros would be proud of.

Final track Heading East, meanwhile, winds things up with an atmospheric slice of orchestral simplicity that’s utterly beguiling – it brings the album to a near-perfect finale.

The wait for this sophomore album from Other Lives was most definitely worth it.

Download picks: For 12, Tamer Animals, As I Lay My Head Down, Old Statues, Woodwind

Track listing:

  1. Dark Horse
  2. As I Lay My Head Down
  3. For 12
  4. Tamer Animals
  5. Dust Bowl III
  6. Weather
  7. Old Statues
  8. Woodwind
  9. Desert
  10. Landforms
  11. Heading East