Feedback in the Field
A L'Oree des bois
New Kind of Love
Early in the Morning
Keep it Real
Three years in the making, Parc Avenue is a sprawling on-the-road opus from Plants and Animals.
Recorded entirely to analogue tape, and taking conceptual substance as much from the actual experience of recording as from day to day life in Montreal’s Mile End, Parc Avenue is ultimately maybe best approached as a love letter to the neighbourhood, friends and lovers that inspired it. The album’s cover (photographed on Mount-Royal, the mountain flanked by Parc Avenue in Montreal) not only features the actual band members, but also family, girlfriends, children, pets, musical collaborators, recording and mastering engineers, label reps, and at least one up-and-coming actor friend in a bear-suit juggling fire.
Originally known for an acoustic, instrumental roots sound following a self-titled recording in 2005, this full-length debut reveals their impressive growth into an epic-rock-pop-soul train that rivals anything crawling out of Canada today. Warren C. Spicer is the veritable vocal soul and guitar hero of the group; Nicolas Basque adds more guitar crunch, bass tones and the occasional piano; and Matthew “the Woodman” Woodley can go from rolling bluegrass tempo to post-rock crash in the blink of a high-kick.
The record begins with Bye Bye Bye (also the album’s first single), and Warren C. Spicer asking “What’s gonna happen to you?” as if to suggest a story already in progress—as if Parc Avenue could be an epilogue to a story already told. With its choir-like chorus and horns, Bye Bye Bye could just as easily close the album, but here it draws us in, like something has been going on without us, and we’re late to the game.
Filled with three-part epics like Faerie Dance (which also appeared on 2007’s with/avec EP) and the anthemic New Kind of Love, Parc Avenue shares a sense of emotional urgency with Montreal contemporaries Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade. But Plants and Animals also deliver this Canadian desperation on their own terms, emphasizing musicianship and a throwback to the 70s rock and roll that was comfortable enough with itself to be a bit silly; to make you want to dance.
After all the yelps and grooves, though, Parc Avenue’s greatest moments may be the simplest ones, like the all-too short Early in the Morning or the gently mounting À L’Orée des bois—a song about making the record itself. “We carried up a 24 / brought to the third floor,” Spicer sings. “It was like lifting…a bull.” “We realized at some point that we needed to work on shit on our own time,” Spicer later explained “so I bought a Studer 24 track A80 and got some friends to help carry it up to the extra room in my third floor apartment on Parc Avenue.” It’s one thing to blast out orchestral might and honest desperation, and this band does that with the best of them. But Plants and Animals also capture honest wistful moments and deliver them with a subtle sweetness that’s never saccharine. And that’s something we haven’t heard in a long, long time.
Plants and Animals have been nominated for two JUNO awards. One for Alternative Album of the Year (for Parc Avenue), and the other for New Group of the Year. The awards will take place March 29 in Vancouver. Go P&A!
"Parc Avenue is an exuberant collection of songs that hold up as an album — a novelty in 2008 — with a cohesive feel, gracefully stretched across a wide range of moods. ... Ultimately, the album exudes warmth and passion, and begs for repeated listens."
"the end result crafts a unique sound that not only stakes its place in a continuum the began with Neil Young and The Band, but forges their own sound and places Plants and Animals heads and shoulders above any other ensemble likely to be tagged a 'jam band.'"
"ust when we all thought we were sick of indie rock from Montreal (which is pretty odd and unfair in the first place, it's not like the energy in the town builds or falls based solely on the Butler/Boeckner/Krug axis), comes Plants and Animals..."
Plants and Animals' much-loved Parc Avenue has made this year's short list for Canada's prestigious Polaris Music Prize. It's the second year in a row Secret City has been represented on the list, after both Miracle Fortress and Patrick Watson (who went on to win the award) showed up on it last year.
"The Montreal scene has itself a new champion."
Though last year's too-brief with/avec EP hinted at Plants and Animals' expansiveness, it didn't fully prepare listeners for Parc Avenue, a sprawling collection of rootsy melodies, majestic arrangements, and classic rock riffs...Plants and Animals may not be the first band to put Montreal on the musical map, but, with this album's there's-no-place-like-home vibe, they are certainly the first to celebrate it so warmly.
"Mark Tuesday on your calendar. On that date, Plants and Animals will release Parc Avenue, an album with a spirit of adventure that will add the band to Montreal's growing legion of visionary rock groups..."
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