Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Trampled By Turtles: "Wild Animals" (album review)

On top of having one of the best names in the music biz, Trampled By Turtles are also a pretty darn good bluegrass/roots band.  On July 15th the Minnesota outfit will release their new studio album, Wild Life.

Bluegrass music is great when it's lively and fun.  It gets your head bopping, your toes tapping, and your laundry done more quickly.  When it's slower paced and more reflective, it can be downright tedious.

Unfortunately, Wild Animals is far more the latter than the former.

While the title track does wonders conveying a sense of desolation (think of a rootsier Fleet Foxes or Great Lake Swimmers), the ending is drawn out to the point where it feels interminable.  Other tracks range from unhurried ("Hollow") to snoozy ("Ghosts") to plain glacial ("Lucy"), making you think that you've heard Sun Kil Moon tracks with more urgency.

The formula does click on "Silver Light".  The personal lyrics and beautiful arrangements and harmonies help break through the gauzy barrier of boredom.

When the tempo picks up, so does the listeners engagement.  "Are You Behind the Shining Star?" is a peppy, poppy number.  You get the full-on hoedown you hope for on "Come Back Home", while "Western World" kicks up a dust storm with it's foot stomping fiddle frenzy.

The group finds a near-perfect balance on "Nobody Knows".  The melody, hooks, harmonies, and twang are in equilibrium, making it far and away the album's standout cut.

Overall, Wild Animals is a flawed record, but one which holds enough nuggets to warrant giving it some time and a few spins.

Trampled By Turtles play The Phoenix in Toronto on September 16th.

Best tracks: "Nobody Knows", "Are You Behind the Shining Star?"

Track listing for Wild Animals:
  • Wild Animals
  • Hollow
  • Repetition
  • Are You Behind the Shining Star?
  • Silver Light
  • Come Back Home
  • Ghosts
  • Lucy
  • Western World
  • Nobody Knows
  • Winners

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