Fine Animal’s debut album, Before the Glow, could orchestrate a modern ballet. The duo has created something spiritual–combining harp-like vocals with minimalist electronic that puts the ‘dream’ in ‘dream pop.’
“When It All Happens (it happens all at once)” was like listening to Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” for the first time–only instead of riding shotgun in my dad’s ‘92 Honda Civic and asking him if we can cut my hair that short, I was sitting on my balcony feeling exceptionally euphoric. Lucy Oaks’ repeated lyric, “It’s so good when you know,” distorts itself, weaving in and out, until a simple techno beat drops, and one of the most fragile pieces of electronica I’ve ever heard launches this album off.
The delicateness continues throughout, especially on “Riser,” which combines high-pitched female vocals and trancey instrumentation, all sweating over sexual, ambient groove. “Portal” builds on that dreamy quality, bringing in an Irish countryside raininess, sweater-wrapped warmth. And “Lay Awake,” with its surprising energetic vibe, melts right into “Boarding Area,” where tasteful trippiness takes hold.
For as minimalist as Before the Glow may seem, tracks like “Perpetually Waking Up” and “Old Dollar” add depth. “Perpetually Waking Up” carries angelic vocals that mist over a thunder-warped soundscape, and Oaks’ ending lyrics, “Like a Pharaoh, sinking in his chair/Let’s test our devotion, while completely unaware,” surprised me with their gravity. “Old Dollar” zips like a racecar across a deserted soundscape, with hollowed vocals and a desperate, beautiful energy to match. Try thinking of “Old Dollar” as a remake of the plastic-bag-blowing-in-the-wind scene from American Beauty, except replace the bag with an old dollar and all-of-a-sudden it’s even deeper.
Before the Glow embodies the kind of mystery that makes you keen on listening for every moment; it’s a startling vessel of strength and beauty, a royal-blooded babe.—Rachel Haney