Tuesday Is For Tunes: Power Animal

I've been hearing whisperings about Power Animal for awhile, so I made sure to show up on time to see them open for Toro Y Moi and The Ruby Suns a couple of weeks ago. Simply put, they were phenomenal. The entire set was full of moments where I had to restrain myself from shouting expletives of encouragement and appreciation. Despite starting at an early 8pm, they packed the room with an ardent crowd that seemed poised to demand an encore from an opener. Though I still was hopeful and excited to see the headlining acts, it was clear Power Animal had laid down a whole heap of awesome that would be tough to follow.

It is impossible to talk about Power Animal without mentioning their instruments. Items of music nerd note included: melodica, mbira with a direct input, children’s 25-key piano, vibraphone, electric banjo, and alto horns. This was in addition to a more standard array of guitars, drums, strings, and synths. Wait. Did I mention they always have at least two percussionists playing? I almost never want to hear any music made with only one measly drummer ever again. With so many odd instruments and resulting noises, it would be easy for Power Animal to sound like a crowded mess of pretentious cacophony. But, instead they sound perfectly blended, merging complex aural elements into thoughtful and deliberate compositions. They don’t have a litany of obscure instruments for hipster cred, they have lots of unusual instruments because that’s what it takes to compose and perform the music they want to make. Thankfully, they are smart about it, and never wax overly dense, or lapse and let the execution get sloppy. Power Animal know when to let things sit a little simply, and perform as a tightly orchestrated group even with twice the members of most bands.

Two of the songs I liked the most from their set are available on their MySpace. The first is Untitled, which opens with chorused whistling that I personally watched replicated live. It sounds like a parade marching off into sun-dappled woods for a weekend of camping and outdoor fun times. Then these fantastic double-time beats kick in courtesy of two talented drummers on two kits. Imagine the effect of double base replicated in all the elements of a drum set. Would it put a ridiculous grin on your face? It did on mine. Then there are these stop-on-a-dime breaks for some gang vocals, and it’s all smoothed over by strings. The second is Dear My Body I’m Not That Body, which starts out much slower than many of their other songs. It makes for a noticeable and pleasant break in their set that allows for some contemplative appreciation at a more digestible tempo. Of course Power Animal would never let things slow to the point of inertia or boredom. After a distortion-filled bridge, the song quickly builds up to a danceable frenzy.

On March 23rd, Power Animal released a full-length entitled People Songs, and they are currently touring the county to promote it. Catch them when they come through your town, and be sure to pick up a copy of their new album.
Power Animal on MySpace

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