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Quick Hits: Built by Animals

Last year I fell in love with the perky, poppy sound of NYC’s Built by Animals. Their brand of hook-laden indie-rock could only come out of some NYC loft; it’s equal parts confident swagger, self-deprecating groan, guitar oomph and pop melodies. They do nothing to change the formula on their three-song EP “Summer of Shmiz.” Since these are only songs number 5-7 for our boys in Built by Animals, let’s give them a pass on “growth” for this one.

The vocals are a joy throughout, whether creaking, snarling, screaming or singing; there’s enough personality contained in them to power this whole EP. But they don’t have to shoulder the load, because the tom-heavy groove and acrobatic guitar work of “Animal Parade,”  the bass-heavy and spazzy-within-limits “Ellen Page,” and the whipsawing moods of “Red-Breasted Bastard; Or, The Feel Bad Hit of the Summer” all give good reasons for repeat listens.

I’d love to go to a Built by Animals show, ’cause I bet they’re just tons of fun. If they can back up their entertaining songs with any amount of showmanship, I know they are. If you like your rock with sunglasses at night and a bit of NYC cool, Built by Animals can be your fix. Rock.

Built By Animals writes energetic, melodic, smile-inducing indie rock

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.

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