Via Audio


Rating 3.5/5.0

Label: Undertow Music

Via Audio’s sophomore effort Animalore is pretty heavy on the kitsch. Track eight is about Auto-Tune, its instrumentation including Nickelodeon tubas, funk-tinged guitars and unifying, Beastie Boys-esque sing-shout punctuations. The verses are proclaimed in an autonomous, monotone-d robot impression and includes lyrics like “Don’t worry you don’t have to sing on key/ The robot will sing it right, as right as can be/ The robot will sing it right for me!” Though only occasionally silly, Animalore presents an interesting dichotomy; the songs deal with the tribulations of highly-serious matters like heartbreak, depression, lost love and sexual frustration by allegorizing them into seemingly harmless fantasies of cops and robbers, fairy tales and – as the title hints – animals.

The two most obvious animal metaphors, aptly titled “Tigers” and “Lizard Song,” are incredibly divergent in terms of their parable. “Tigers” relates curved-lip CEOs (and I imagine big-shot record label executives) to tigers – stalking their prey with a sauntering gloat, they coerce the serfdom into their less-than-wholesome desires. As frontwoman Jessica Martins puts it; “You can say whatever you feel/ As long as you know you will become a meal/ So shake their paws/ Seal all the deals.” “Lizard Song” exchanges the destitute irrevocability of its counterpart for a bushy-tailed, young-minded lizard: “I feel different than I did before.” It’s a song about growing up but not getting older – the giddy shock of the realization of the wide open world, a time before cynicism or doubt wrapped its icy claws around our soul.

Obviously not all of Animalore’s songs are cloaked in that analogical coyness. In fact, some of the more highlight-worthy tracks are pretty deliberate in their elegance. “Wanted” is void of the semi-frivolous disposition of the other tracks. Amidst a taut violin swoon, and distant Middle Earth drums, Martins chronicles a world as intangible as it is beautiful; “If you hold your breath/ You never have to come up for air.” It’s not necessarily a ‘somber’ song, but it’s definitely a change-up amidst the album’s reductive nature, while managing to be pretty awe-inspiring at the same time.

Via Audio is a bit of a dinosaur in a lot of ways. With the ’90s now two decades behind us, and the influences of Slumberland long-diminished, twee as a genre has sort of passed us by. Sure we had a brief resurgence with the forever-callow The Boy Least Likely To, but they were dusted under the doormat as quickly as they emerged. It’s clear that Via Audio is a band hopelessly (and charmingly) attuned to the heroic lineages of Belle & Sebastian and the Cardigans, and honestly, their songs aren’t that far off from reaching a similar plateau of reverence. Animalore is certainly not the most original album released this week, or maybe this year, but it’s got a good heart, even if that heart was drawn by a lovesick fifth-grader.

by Luke Winkie
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