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Plants and Animals brings together the best of previous albums on 'The End of That'

“What happened in 2010?” I ask Plants and Animals drummer Matthew “Woodman” Woodley and guitarist Nic Basque, as we commune in the living room of Woody’s Mile-End apartment.

“Warren had a bad year,” Woody says, referring to the trio’s lead singer, Warren C. Spicer. “That’s the riddle of The End of That – if you listen to all of the lyrics, you can kind of figure it out.”

The song in question on Plants and Animals’ third full-length album is called, simply, “2010”. Warren sings with cataclysmic projection: “Twenty-ten is over! Goodbye to the tears of last year!” An anthemic culmination of desperation and relief, the song punctuates the album’s 11 tracks in both an emotional and stylistic shift, progressing from a flirtation with easy-going folk-rock to more diverse and referential modern-rock excursions.

Parc Avenue [2008] was pretty folky – there was a lot of acoustic guitar and more orchestration – and then La La Land [2010] was definitely more rock. The new record takes from both, and it’s also its own thing,” Woody says. “We’ve been playing together for 10 years and we’ve done all kinds of different stuff, so it isn’t a change of course so much as it’s everything put together.”

Plants and Animals recorded The End of That during a two-week residency at La Frette, a luxurious chateau-turned-studio in a suburb of Paris, with some help from engineer Lionel Darenne (known for his work with Feist). In a change of pace, Warren, Woody and Nic prepared most of the songs before entering the studio, and each was recorded as the band performed them live.

“I feel the clearest direction, when we were preparing the record, was to be as honest as we can among the three of us,” says Nic, “to be as transparent as we can with everything, so that we feel something when we play these songs.”

The resulting sound espouses Plants and Animals’ reputation as a band best heard live, with instrumentation recalling the likes of Radiohead and Wolf Parade; not to mention Warren’s unfettered vocal delivery, which hearkens Bob Dylan in some places, late ‘60s rock like Fleetwood Mac in others. The authentically live sound complements Warren’s uncomplicated, autobiographical lyrics - even the most straightforward line feels deeply personal.

As emotionally honest as the album is, it isn’t all that black and white. In “Song for Love”, when Warren transitions from upbeat acoustic guitaring and candid speak-singing to raspy roars of “I let you down, so it sounds,” it becomes apparent that there is more going on than the simple narrative-folk format allows for. Further, rhythmic piano ballad “No Idea” evokes imagery of wandering through the proverbial wilderness, moving on from heartbreak and feeling left behind as all his friends are getting married and settling down - a recurring theme throughout these 11 tracks.

“One thing we were going for with this record was to make it accessible right away, without being too light or too superficial,” Woody says. “One thing that we heard a lot about La La Land was that it’s a ‘grower,’ that it doesn’t really invite you in. We wanted this one to have more of an immediacy.”

Plants and Animals with Thus: Owls
March 10th | Cabaret du Mile-End
5240, Parc | plantsandanimals.ca