Tamer Animals

Other Lives, Live Session #94

by oz on October 12, 2011

Other Lives released their sophomore album, Tamer Animals, earlier this year. It’s not one of those albums that was created spontaneously in one session. The band spent 14 months crafting the arrangements and placing all the right sounds in all the right parts. Lead singer Jesse Tabish was quoted as saying ““There’s nothing like, ‘Hey, let’s rock out on this!’ It’s homemade in a way. For better or for worse, it’s all our sound.” The album is magnificent.

If you’ve fallen in love with the album but have never seen them live, this session will give you a deeper appreciation for the album and the band. Each musician in Other Lives is a multi-instrumentalist. As you watch them move around throughout songs, you’ll see guitars flung to backs to transition to keys. Lead guitars dropped to make room for horns or a violin. You’ll be captivated by Jenny Hsu on cello in “For 12” or her antlers on “Tamer Animals” and then Colby Owens’ drumming takes your attention on “Dust Bowl II.” Or maybe it’s the bows streaking across guitars on that song. Or maybe the trumpet in the end. Or the acoustic.

And that’s when you realize that Other Lives is unlike most bands you’ve encountered. Jesse Tabish is technically a front man but every member plays an equal part. At shows, you’ll find yourself leaning left to right, on your tip-toes, jockeying for better vantage points to catch all the parts that make up this magical orchestration. With headphones on and eyes closed, you’ll become immersed in its atmosphere. That’s by design. Other Lives is a sound you wouldn’t expect out of a band with roots in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Or maybe it is born from Great Plains and wide expanses where anything goes, but careful attention must be paid to crafting boundaries and structure in an otherwise open tapestry. I’ve been claiming that the band is underrated, but perhaps their popularity will grow like the making of Tamer Animals or the way it settles in on its listener over time. It’s an organic process that takes time to reveal itself. That’s my hope.

As for the session production, we need to thank our videographers. With all the transitions and gear changes throughout the session and within each song, our video contributors Nathan Saks and Mark Smirl deserve high praise. Definitely not easy to capture all the activity, but they did an incredible job. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t point out that Jesse Tabish wrote the guitar part and theme for “For 12” while sitting under a bridge outside Shirk’s studio two years ago when they arrived early for our first live session with Other Lives.

Spend some time exploring each of those videos and keep a watch out for tour dates. They are a must see.

Other Lives Band Introduction

Exclusive: Other Lives – As I Lay My Head Down (Videos: Vimeo | YouTube)

Exclusive: Other Lives – For 12 (Videos: Vimeo | YouTube)

Exclusive: Other Lives – Tamer Animals (Videos: Vimeo | YouTube)

Exclusive: Other Lives – Dust Bowl III (Videos: Vimeo | YouTube)

Download the Other Lives HearYa Live Session as a zip file.

Video: Other Lives – For 12 (Live in Chicago at Shirk Music + Sound)

Video: Other Lives – Dust Bowl III (Live in Chicago at Shirk Music + Sound)

Video: Other Lives – Tamer Animals (Live in Chicago at Shirk Music + Sound)

Video: Other Lives – As I Lay My Head Down (Live in Chicago at Shirk Music + Sound)

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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.

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