I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I haven’t been this behind on singles in a while either. It’s time for a mixtape.
1. “Zambezi” – Tinashé. Not new, but this incredible, enthusiastic pop tune is new to me.
2. “It Goes On” – Tin Can Radio. Mid ’00s dance-rock meets Tokyo Police Club-esque pop-rock. And they’re Australian!
3. “Lady Percy” – King Charles. If you don’t hear summer in this, I don’t think summer is in you. It’s either the steel drums or his impeccable clothes.
4. “Burn Out” – Youth Sounds. Cheery, dream-haze synth-pop cut through with direct vocals and pushing drums, which takes it to the next level.
5. “Samar” – The Clouds (Jakarta). Jangly, airy and lightweight, the Indonesian indie-pop band’s name matches this tune.
6. “Jukebox” – Oceanics. Remember The Cribs? Perky British mid ’00s indie-rock? Take out some of the sneering, and here’s your Aussie equivalent. Fun track.
7. Black Horses – Charlotte & Magon. Haunting indie-rock that has silent movie drama, trip-hop tension and enveloping female vocals.
8. “Love is a Devil” – Laneway. These Aussies know how to make pitch-perfect, dark American country music. Shiver-inducing.
9. “Kingston” – Corduroy Kids. When Jack Baton’s voice is in his low register, he can make a folk song sound ominous and mournful at the same time.
10. “Zambezi (Mbira Version)” – Tinashé. The energetic tune gets a quiet, pensive rendition via the gorgeous, mesmerizing tones of the mbira.
The members of Built by Animals are either oblivious or completely subversive. The songs on this self-titled EP and the accompanying art absorb or pilfer everything possible from other bands and re-appropriate. The end product of a less talented band would simply be annoying and derivative. But the Brooklyn-based members of Built by Animals are talented, and the four songs shine all the more because of their total hipsterdom or hipster mockery (and I’m leaning toward believing it’s the latter).
Built By Animals’ guitar-based indie-rock is a mix of Phoenix’s herky-jerky melodies and the hyperactive guitar strum of non-First Impressions of Earth Strokes. They aren’t trying to do anything new; they just do it well. The bridge in “Teenage Rampage” has the type of melody and counterpoint that the rest of the song has lead me to want. When they finally drop in the riff, it feels right and satisfying. That’s solid songwriting.
The band is composed of talented musicians, as well as talented songwriters. Bassist Nick Crane shows off his impressive chops with speedy runs in a particularly bouncy section of opener “Return to the Power Kingdom.” The mathy-yet-melodic counterpoint that guitarist Morgan von Ancken intertwines makes “Return to the Power Kingdom” one of the best tracks here. Crane also flexes his melodic muscle in the bass solo (!) in “Ducks.”
The band shows they know how to build tension with the aforementioned “Ducks,” and they show they can make a subdued tune with the Red Hot Chili Peppers-esque “Spreadsheets.” The dry vocal delivery deserves praise on “Spreadsheets,” as it sticks out in a pleasing way.
It’s hard to pick out specific reasons for why I like Built by Animals’ self-titled EP so much. They’re not doing anything even remotely groundbreaking, but they knock the songs out of the park. Their tunes are energetic, melodic and smile-inducing without being saccharine or pandering; it’s hard to knock a band that can pull that off. I eagerly anticipate what Built by Animals will do next; they’ve established a solid foundation and can go in many directions. Onward and upward! For fans of Phoenix, Strokes, The Cribs, Bishop Allen, and other New York guitar-rock bands.