Other Lives – Tamer Animals [Album Review]

by Shirk on May 10, 2011

Today, Other Lives released their second full length album entitled Tamer AnimalsTamer Animals is ALL in the details.  Every little bit counts and is meticulously crafted to create a rich landscape of sonic texture.  From the smallest knee slap beats in “For 12” to the thunderous roll of the Timpani in “As I Lay My Head Down,” Tamer Animals is dynamic, moody and full of musical imagery.

Jenny Hsu, Jonathon Mooney, Josh Onstott, Colby Owens and Jesse Tabish are Other Lives. The band spent the last year and a half recording and self-producing the songs that would make up Tamer Animals in their rehearsal/studio space in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Emerging from a batch of fourteen or more demos (that I was privileged enough to enjoy listening to since last summer), Other Lives created an eleven track front-to-back listen. The first demo I heard was “As I Lay My Head Down” and upon first listen it was clear that the band was taking time to explore new instruments. The guitar took a backseat to strings and ambient drones.  The drumming was more intricate with interesting percussion textures and more complex and unexpected time changes.  As I listened through all of the demos for the next few months, I was eager to hear what the final production would evolve into.

When I finally got to hear the finished album, I was floored.  The band further developed some of the songs and mixers Joey Waronker and Alex Pasco brought the recorded sounds to a new level. The mixes are dynamic and deep, allowing the listener to hear all of the details in the arrangement that Other Lives produced.

The album opens with “Dark Horse,” a song based around a repetitive trumpet phrase. The swelling strings and woodwinds dance on top of a drumline snare pattern that propels you through Tabish’s whispy vocal melodies.  It’s a great album opener as it strongly signifies a new direction for Other Lives.  This ain’t your regular indie rock band banging out power chords.

Next comes “As I Lay My Head Down” with its haunting vocal melody and pounding Timpani drums.   The syncopated rhythms will keep you on your toes, anticipating the next twist or turn.  “For 12” occupies the 3 position on the album and is the song the band chose to pre-release as a single.  The hand-to-knee (at least that’s what I think it is) percussion patterns in this song give it a wonderful galloping effect.  My imagination is immediately transported to riding horseback across a desolate plane with wind eroded mountaintops peaking over the horizon in the distance.

“Tamer Animals” is the most commercially appealing track on the album.  This song saw the biggest leap between the first demo I heard and the final version.  The addition of the floor tom and snare drum pattern elevates the energy of the song and keeps it moving.  “Dust Bowl” is the tune that solidifies my belief that Other Lives will find additional success in the realm of Film Scoring.  If this song doesn’t conjure up images of a flat wind swept plain with tumble weed, maybe a broken windmill or two, then your ears are broken.  The Western imagery is powerful.  I’ve never spent any time in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but I imagine if I drove for a half hour in any direction from there, it would sound like this.

Moving through the album, songs like “Weather” and “Landforms” demonstrate that Other Lives knows how to create a majestic arrangement without repeating the same tricks.  The Floyd-esque waltz of “Old Statues” is a perfect contrast to the more ambient orchestral sound design of “Heading East.”

The band explores some really great musical terrain on Tamer Animals.  If I had to name one word to some up the album, it would be “expansive.”  Every track feels wide and open. And not just the mix, but the music and the imagery it produces. With that in mind, pick up this album, turn it up loud, close your eyes and make a movie in your head.

Other Lives – For 12

Stream Tamer Animals here.

Check out our Live Session with Other Lives.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody May 10, 2011 at 10:34 pm

An absolute brilliant piece of music. Not one detail is overlooked. Nothing is forced. Its as close to perfection as you’re going to see. I’ve said it a million times; so one more time isn’t going to hurt. I am absolutely gobsmacked that these guys are not more popular.

DBTChicago May 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm

easy to root for other lives. great music and great guys. will never forget the other lives-elvis perkins show at schubas a few years ago. fantastic.

jay May 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Wow seriously this music is so good. The guitar work along with the singing goes so well together. These guys are briliant. So relaxing and chilled

jay May 10, 2011 at 11:55 pm

There are so many amazing artists out there who are not as popular as they should be like fantine and these guys. Hope they will get more credit in the future.

Peter May 11, 2011 at 1:10 am

Your “For 12” post a while back introduced me to these guys, and now they’re one of my all-time favorites. Freaking excellent album, and I’m really excited to see them in concert soon. So thank you!

oz May 11, 2011 at 9:04 am

Great write up, Shirk. Always good to hear a musician/producer’s perspective.

Easily one of the best albums of the year. The title track has a National vibe. As I Lay My Head Down is one of my favorite songs of the year as well. Loved hearing that one at SxSW.

Secret Sessions August 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

We were lucky enough to get Other Lives to perform ‘For 12’ for us at Passing Clouds in London and we were seriously impressed. Watch it here: http://www.secretsessions.tv/?p=959

SHIRK August 26, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Thanks for sharing that, Secret Sessions. Very cool. Keep and eye on those audio levels 🙂 We have an Other Lives session in the hopper that I haven’t finished mixing yet. Did a couple of rough mixes of Tamer Animals and Dust Bowl III… sounding f’ing HUGE!!!! Can’t wait to share this with you all. What a band…..

Misty January 18, 2015 at 10:15 pm

magnificent post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this
sector do not notice this. You should proceed your writing.
I’m confident, you’ve a great readers’ base already!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: