Plants and Animals with Lost In Trees
9 p.m. Wednesday
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneeyedjacks.com
There's no mistaking the warm West Coast vibe on Plants and Animals' La La Land (Secret City) — except, maybe, to the band that made it. The all-analog Laurel Canyon atmosphere of the Montreal trio's second LP hits like a refracted Highway 1 sunset, in fuzz-loving electric guitars and stoned harmonies on 1970s-liberated songs that carry regional winks like "Tom Cruz," "American Idol," "Kon Tiki" and "The Mama Papa."
"You never really know what you've got until the end," says singer/guitarist Warren Spicer. "It didn't really occur to me that it's this West Coast, L.A. record, even though it's called La La Land. I think it's valid; I just don't think I realized it while I was doing any of it. Which is probably a good thing too, because it means it was coming from me naturally and not trying to impose something on a record."
The accidental thread is less the influence of California dreaming than adjusting to a new life as a touring band. Since debuting with the acclaimed, largely acoustic Parc Avenue in early 2008, Plants and Animals has followed the path of fellow Montrealers Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and labelmate Patrick Watson, going from local favorite to U.S. road warriors. "There's something about touring," Spicer says. "Looking out a van window, watching TV in a hotel room — those things just kind of creep into the music."
The band's sound has evolved in turn. When it came time to take Parc Avenue's sprawling, shaggy tunes on the road, Spicer left behind the acoustic guitars and adornments — string arrangements by Arcade Fire's Sarah Neufeld; an entire boys' choir; literal bells and whistles — and leaned instead on the effects pedals. "It just didn't work onstage with three guys, so we had to figure out another way to do it," he says. "We went for energy over instrumentation."
La La Land, as a result, is both bigger and boiled down. "American Idol" and "The Mama Papa" bristle with the energy of a reborn power trio, representing the twin peaks of two divergent sides laid down on different continents. After tracking much of side A in its neighborhood Treatment Room studio, the band jetted to La Frette studios just outside Paris to finish the sessions. A fascinating video podcast on the French-language music site La Blogotheque (www.blogotheque.net) captures the multilayered experience perfectly, moving from room to room — and musician to musician — during the recording of "The Mama Papa" in a single five-minute take.
"You're living in this mansion and it's filled with old audio equipment," Spicer says. "It's kind of surreal. You look around and go, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe this. But 20 minutes in you're just thinking about the music. It all kind of informs what you're doing. ... When we sequenced the record, we didn't really realize it, but the first six songs are all from Montreal, and the last five songs are all from Paris. It's totally compartmentalized."
Where Parc Avenue was a communal affair, evidenced by the forest glen love-in on the album's cover, La La Land is "a little more focused on the three of us," Spicer notes. But that doesn't mean there aren't some memorable embellishments. Colin Stetson, who also performs with Arcade Fire, rips off a blustery saxophone bridge in "American Idol," echoing another of the album's in-joke titles, "Future From the '80s."
"That solo is real. We took a chance on that one," Spicer says, laughing. And as might be expected, he's taken some heat for it. "Everyone's got their own opinion. Yeah, I've heard other things, but, I mean, f—k 'em. Whatever. It's a good sax solo."