If you have more than one check shirt in your wardrobe you will almost certainly like this album. Not that Tamer Animals by Oklahoma band Other Lives is a slave to fashion fads (it was painstakingly created over fourteen months), but these eleven tracks are moody, cinematic takes on alternative folk that are likely to appeal to plaid-wearing fans of The National and Fleet Foxes.
A slightly retro film score vibe is evident from the first track, Dark Horse, which would almost be at home on the soundtrack of an old Disney film and which calls Clare and The Reasons to mind. Throughout the album Jesse Tabish’s heartbreaking vocals range from soft and plaintive sighs to seductive and silky murmurs, supported by mournful cello and soaring violin.
As I Lay My Head Down is a swirling and dramatic number reminiscent of An Emerald City. Like a more sophisticated Muse, Other Lives create dramatic tension through orchestral arrangements. All that simmering tension could have been allowed to explode with crashing cymbals and ominous bass drums, but the restraint used on Tamer Animals is what makes the album so elegant.
Dark Statues is possibly the poppiest of the tracks, with catchy keyboard and ooh-ing and aah-ing backing vocals, but even this number unfurls into a haunting soundscape that sounds as though it could have been recorded inside a cathedral.
This carefully-constructed and evocative album, enhanced with imaginative use of bassoon, bass clarinet, trumpet and French horn, is a treat for the ears and tonic for the soul. If you have more than one plaid shirt in your wardrobe you will almost certainly like this album… but with so much to enjoy here you will almost certainly like this album no matter what you wear.
Kathryn van Beek
Click here to listen to For 12 from Tamer Animals: