A lot of different types of bands have come from Montreal in recent years, but Plants and Animals may be the first that could be mistaken for classic rock. The elements of Plants and Animals' first full-length record, Parc Avenue, all come from some place in the slightly distant past—from the San Francisco acid rock of "Keep it Real" to the Harvest boom-boom-thwack folk of the second half of "Sea Shanty" to the Basement Tapes-gone-camping homage on the album cover. But Plants and Animals refuse to ride the coattails of what's come before, and their songs happily evade the straightforward, bland sound of an FM rock block.
Instead, songs fold in on one another, or grow mutant limbs that sprout in haphazard directions, or travel through a series of fully formed musical ideas without succumbing to any of them. "New Kind of Love" grows from a simple coffeehouse folk song into a hollered Arcade Fire anthem before lapsing into a pastoral medieval canon complete with flutes and autoharp. The first part of "Faerie Dance" establishes a languid, watery sound before launching into heavy guitar riffing, then circles the wagons to reestablish its main theme under a veil of staccato violin and piano. "À l'Orée des Bois" is a catchy indie rock song that makes the finest use of a child's voice since XTC's "Dear God."
In short, Parc Avenue is an incredibly diverse, adventurous record, one that is just as meat 'n' potatoes classic rock as it is light, frothy folk or heavy, drugged-out prog. Although it contains myriad guest appearances, it's primarily the work of three musicians: Guitarist Warren Spicer and drummer Matthew "Woody" Woodley met as children in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the two joined forces with Nicolas Basque at Concordia University in Montreal. "We've tried lots of things musically, pushed each other, had a million beers, and lots of life," says Woody.
Parc Avenue was recorded slowly and carefully over two years, and the deliberation allowed the record to achieve a finely controlled sprawl within its carefully composed songs. "We used to be an instrumental band," Woody says, "and through that, we went deep into the voices of our individual instruments, because they were the mouth. Then we started recording what became Parc Avenue, and over two years we tried a lot of things out, styles, singing—and what we liked, we kept. Just like natural selection. We had the luxury of time: no label, no deadline, just our lives and the space to experiment, to try and err and try more."
An EP, With/Avec, was recorded in the downtime between the completion of Parc Avenue and its release last year; meanwhile, the album's lengthy process of trial and error has been an invaluable experience for the band. "When we write music, jamming comes into play, but everybody does that. We're not a jam band," Woody points out. "I think the next album will come out of us much more quickly. We've learned tons—about songwriting, how to work in the studio, what our voice is, in a general kind it way. After this tour we're going to hole up in the studio. As far as new directions, I'd like to say more pared down, but who knows what will happen once we get going."