Album Review: PARADISE ANIMALS – S/T EP
Dark synth-pop is probably the best musical oxymoron I can name… I’m not the one who came up with the term – but there is something intriguing about the way that it rolls off the tongue.
By it’s nature synth-pop shouldn’t even begin to conjure the imagery of being dark in any possible way, and yet with the resurgence of electro in mainstream music over the past few years this mythical musical genre continues to pervade the public consciousness.
Mark Andrade (of Guelph dance-rockers GREEN GO) and his indie-electro outfit PARADISE ANIMALS have spent the past year crafting their own dark sway-inducing style of synth-pop, that has gathered comparisons to and mentions of influences ranging from New York new wave revivalist TWIN SHADOW to LEONARD COHEN.
It’s not overtly pop, but it has the hooky musical flare that disco-era pop tunes in the late 70s had as new wave was starting to emerge and that weird overlap was going on where they hadn’t yet become distinctly separate genres.
PA’s latest efforts have culminated in their official seven-track debut EP (released Feb. 7th) – and while a few of the tracks have been kicking around on 7″ since early-ish 2011, their reappropriated release here as a full debut EP is meaty enough to warrant further inspection… and all the more so for a FREE DOWNLOAD (see streaming player above).
Opener “Raised In The Wild” is an eerie instrumental track that delves deep into the thudding bassline and synths and doesn’t come up for close to two minutes until it trickles away into nothingness, paving the way for the remainder of the EP – if you’re a stickler for the 80s comparisons here because of the genre, imagine it’s THE nothing from The Neverending Story… it probably wouldn’t be out of place in the slightest on the soundtrack.
“Costal Line” (feat. Toronto singer/songwriter Allie Hughes) subsequently captures the mid-tone-heavy bass-filled groove that emanates throughout their live shows to the letter.
What’s really interesting though about this part of PA’s self-titled EP is the fade production that transitions between this track and “At This Time”, which has been included on the band’s earlier releases without the opening transition – whether this subtle little audio treat is courtesy of the band themselves or Lacquer Channel audio masterer Noah Mintz is never really clear, but it definitely helps the release come across as a more cohesive effort rather than just a bunch of tracks on an album like so many releases do.
“At This Time” is still among my favourite tracks of 2011, with its three-note synth hook – here, again backed by that groovy mid-tone-filled bass – and its insatiable ability to make one want to get up and dance. The extended bridge section transitions well from the live setting where the entirety of the venue is surely in full dance-mode, and the ooohs and aaahs here are just the icing on the cake.
And I loves me some cake.
As far as production goes, “Wooden Box” feels a little dropped in place after the meticulous transition that preceded it, but aside from that it’s a swirling static-tinged number with a little saxophone mixed in for ambiance – great emotionally-charged track for sure.
It’s really no surprise that PA’s song “Utility” ended up on The iM’s top tracks of 2011 – between the synth, guitar arpeggios, and Andrade’s “take two drinks to me, take two drinks” this thing is a catchy beast. When paired with subsequent, similarly rhythmic track “Hearts”, the back half of the release really begins to showcases the dancier leanings of the group.
Instrumental track “Falling On Rocks And Stones” is a great close to the album – and in most cases it forms a solid backbone to PARADISE ANIMALS’ live set: the saxophone rears its head again for a George Michael (or more recently M83) -style flare, the bass gets a little more disco and things come to a close with a rhythmic hi-hat pattern and cymbal hit that rings out like a gong.
Having seen the band perform live a number of times over the past year it’s great to finally get a good recorded chunk of material that can be listened to repeatedly at one’s leisure. And with the so-rarely-promoted baritone vocal making a serious comeback in the 2010s, if Paradise Animals keeps things going at this rate they’re sure to be among those leading the dark synth-pop charge in 2012.
Or at least they will be once other people figure out how to make a musical oxymoron work this well.
- RYAN STEPHENSON PRICE